One of China’s biggest financial conglomerates has taken its cue from the country’s internet giants to create a “digital ecosystem” with an online reach that is fast approaching half a billion users.
Over the past five years China’s Ping An Insurance has established 11 new digital platforms that cover banking, healthcare, smart cities and housing in addition to the conglomerate’s primary business of insurance, amassing a potential client base of around 486 million users.
In a recent interview with McKinsey Quarterly Jessica Tan, deputy CEO of Ping An, said that its fintech business model of creating free online platforms to attract a huge volume of users was first inspired by the successes of China’s internet giants.
“Five years ago, we were really learning from what the internet guys were doing: everything was free,” said Tan.
“They got users first and only then started to monetise these offerings by cross-selling and up-selling…the idea was to create these platforms where we could draw in customers who would then later buy our financial-services products.”
Ping An’s ecosystem of free online platforms, such as the Good Doctor app which provides medical advice to users, rapidly accumulated momentum during an initial three year period of investment and development.
The end result is a fintech ecosystem with a reach of around 486 million users, which has provided Ping An with around 35 – 40% of its new financial services customers over the past two years.
“We think this ecosystem model is much better than a more traditional one where a customer has to buy a product first and then you provide services based on that customer’s needs,” said Tan.
In addition to online digital platforms Ping An is also spending heavily on in-house fintech R&D in areas including artificial intelligence, the blockchain and facial recognition.
The company has stepped up investment in tech to around 1% of annual revenue, or approximately USD$1 billion, with plans to invest around $15 billion in fintech and medical science over the upcoming decade.