Driving a tech-focused insurance future
Hong Kong’s ZA Insure is benefitting from a technology backing and some important partnerships.
By the looks of it, Hong Kong’s ZA Insure is more than ready to take on the digital era.
The insurer wasted no time in taking advantage of ever-shifting customer appetite, scaling their products and tools to satiate the digital-savvy. The DNA backing that it got from its parent company ZhongAn Online P&C has allowed the insurer to offer a different kind of digital experience for its customers. For example, its e-know your customer (eKYC) methods have allowed it to shorten the time needed for clients to submit their personal information and have it verified.
Seeing a gap created by traditional insurers’ focus on investment-linked products, ZA Insure currently has four pure protection products available. It has also been looking into other ways of distribution, riding on its partnership with sister company ZA Bank which has been granted a licence to act as an agent.
“Working as a pioneer in the insurtech space has brought me to one major conclusion: in the digital era, the future of insurance should focus on three important keywords – instant, relevant, and personalised,” said ZA Insure CEO Wayne Xu.
Tell us more about yourself. How has your experience in the insurance industry impacted your leadership style as ZA Insure CEO? What important lessons have you learned?
I joined ZhongAn Online P&C Insurance as chief operating officer in January 2014, and took office as president of ZA International in December 2017 after its establishment. I assumed the role of CEO of ZA Insure in 2019. I have more than 10 years of experience in internet product development and management. Prior to joining ZhongAn, I worked as a founding member of Google China product management team.
My past experience has enabled me to bring in-depth expertise in strategy and operations and strive to implement a culture of innovation, to bring forth ideas of internet product development, and to develop international business for ZA. ZhongAn’s proprietary core insurance system is able to process thousands of transactions per second, thereby enabling us to offer instant protection to users. This concept of ‘empowering insurance with technology’ has become an important guiding principle for me to bring personalised and timely insurance to the under-insured segment in Hong Kong.
Customisation is another focus of ZA Insure, which is a legacy of ZhongAn’s success in “fragmentation” of insurance products. I believe there is no way to design a product that suits everyone. Only through connecting product innovation to various life scenarios can we create insurance that truly fits users’ needs.
What is ZA Insure’s primary edge over its traditional competitors?
Versus traditional insurers, ZA Insure adopts a two-winged growth strategy of “insurance + technology”, with a goal to address customers’ protection needs by providing innovative insurance products and a different user experience. We have applied our proprietary eKYC system to the underwriting process. This not only saves time compared to manual underwriting, but also reduces the likelihood of human errors. We have also integrated big data into our underwriting questionnaires which are tailor-made for each individual, making our underwriting process more precise, concise, and personalised.
In Hong Kong, we are witnessing growing acceptance of digital insurance driven by our all-new user experience. Our current user base ranges from post-00s to post-50s. Almost 40% of our policies are issued outside of traditional office hours, and more than 90% of our customers are able to receive protection instantly. In 2020, the newly acquired underwritten insurance policies of ZA Insure increased by approximately 35% MoM, and the average insured amount for each policyholder was up to approximately HK$1.8m.
Traditionally, Hong Kong’s insurance market had a heavy focus on savings and investment-linked products, thereby creating a huge mortality protection gap. To fill this gap, we currently offer four pure protection products: ZA Life Protection, ZA Cancer Protection, ZA Heart Attack & Stroke Protection, and ZA Accident Protection. In addition, many consumers have been denied access to the necessary protection that addresses their actual needs, mostly due to the high premiums involved.
We also take reference from ZA International’s use cases in overseas markets. In Singapore, ZA International has partnered with NTUC Income to establish API connections with various local partners in catering, public transportation, food delivery and other sectors.
We are also exploring new ways of distribution. In January 2021, our sister company ZA Bank was granted an insurance agency licence from the Hong Kong Insurance Authority (IA). Once our products are officially available in the ZA Bank app, customers can access the one-stop service from quotation, application, underwriting to payment, all to be completed in the app regardless of time and location. They can also view their policy details anytime in the app upon policy issuance.
What about your digital competitors?
We have the strong technology DNA inherited from our parent group ZhongAn Online, which lays a solid foundation for us to offer a different user experience. Our proprietary eKYC system allows customers to simply use their mobile phone to scan and upload their HKID card for facial recognition via our 24/7 online platform.
Personal conditions and previous answers will determine the set of questions for each individual in our underwriting questionnaires. The decision behind the big data has taken thousands of scenarios into account, helping us enhance time efficiency by avoiding unnecessary questions. Under the “less is more” principle, our user interface features a seamless experience that allows easy access to online insurance. We also learn from ZhongAn’s technology infrastructure in areas such as cybersecurity, data protection, and information security.
We also regularly engage our customers through various channels and then integrate their feedback into ZA Insure’s product development and design processes, which helps us create products and services that better serve the market. Moreover, we are also dedicated to partnering with companies and organisations which share similar mindsets.
ZhongAn Online collaborates with partners from various industries to integrate fragmented insurance products into daily life scenarios. One of the ways is to on-board its products on partners’ platforms via API. ZA Insure is replicating this model through our collaboration with lifestyle segments, so that we can gain a better understanding of Hong Kong consumers’ unique behaviour.
Joining hands with cancerinformation.com.hk, we received first-hand feedback from post-cancer patients to understand the pain points of traditional insurance coverage, which offered great insights for our product design. In August 2020, we partnered with GOGOX to provide free life protection plans with coverage of HK$100,000 and a benefit term of one year to GOGOX drivers who complete a set number of orders.
Aside from having a one-stop service, how would you take advantage of ZA Bank acting as an agent for ZA Insure?
The scale of ZA Bank will certainly be an important asset for our business growth. Not only has ZA Bank crossed 300,000 users, but it has also successfully formed a tech-driven community with partners in different lifestyle segments. The extensive pool of proprietary data on user behaviours will guide us to design more tailor-made products to the Hong Kong market.
We can also leverage the existing infrastructure of the ZA Bank app. Whilst making a difference in insurance through product innovation is at the heart of our business, it is equally important to serve customers in the way they are familiar with. Placing our insurance products on the app would create an easier entry point for users to access our products without the need to switch between platforms.
We look forward to the synergy between ZA Insure and ZA Bank, where we can work together to create more value for customers’ future digital wealth management experience by sharing our technical strengths and cost advantages. ZA is currently the only technology company in Hong Kong with both a virtual banking licence and a digital-only insurer licence. This will be a win-win situation for both businesses.