Pirates with Ties interview with Natasha Kyprianides of Hellenic Bank

In the Pirates with Ties interview series, we are interviewing people who are leading digital transformation and innovation in major Financial Institutions.

Natasha Kyprianides, is in charge of Digital banking and innovation at Hellenic Bank, the second largest bank in Cyprus. Their “mobile first” strategic approach debuted with a mobile banking app that cost less than 1/10 the usual app cost and was launched in 6 months. David Brear, chose Hellenic Bank, as a case study that illustrates why most banking innovation happens outside the UK.

Pirates with ties

 

Daily Fintech Advisers provides strategic consulting to organizations with business and investment interests in Fintech. Efi Pylarinou is a Digital Wealth Management thought leader.

Our Analysis of 156 #InsurTech Ventures During Cambrian Explosion

Insuretech

 

A year ago we wrote “not that many InsuranceTech startups – yet”. We found 11 ventures. People added 4 more in comments, exciting ventures that we went on to profile – making 15 total. A year is an eon in startup land. Today we found over 150. That is over 10x more. InsurTech is in the Cambrian Explosion phase – when entrepreneurs and investors are rushing to meet a huge market opportunity that is still in a nascent stage.

Whats in a hashtag name?

A year ago we spelled out InsuranceTech. Now the markets seems to have coalesced around #Insurtech. Insuretech with an e is perfectly logical, but it is less popular (as per Google Trends). Instech is still the most popular on Google Trends but suffers from a disambiguation problem – many of the top 5 results have nothing to do with Insurance and we see that people who chose Instech initially (with great logic) are using both Instech and Insurtech. We believe that Insurtech is what the market is signaling.

Mind the MVP PMF Chasm

When you get off the Tube (American = Subway) at Bank (American = Wall Street), the announcer tells you to “mind the gap” (between the train and the platform).

Startup investors have learned to worry about something much bigger than a gap, namely a chasm. In this case it is the chasm between Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and Product Market Fit (PMF).

Insurtech is currently in the Cambrian Explosion phase, which is the conceptual story phase when a lot of MVP ventures hit the market. Early stage Funding is based on a highly plausible conceptual story about where value will be created.  A lot of new ventures are created. There is a lot of media hype. The story shows massive market opportunity enabled by disruptive technology. Both are real. It is possible for all companies formed in the Cambrian explosion to fail, but this is unusual. What is quite normal is for all companies formed in the Cambrian explosion to appear to fail temporarily. Sometimes the story is right, but the timing is off. For example, the Dot Com bubble and burst and eventual rebirth from 2003 to 2011 followed this trajectory. Once enough people had Internet connectivity (almost) all the conceptual story phase dreams of the Dot Com era did become true, but we had to go through a major slough of despond first. The ventures that make it to PMF then enter the ScaleUp phase and since digitization went mainstream, the time between PMF and ScaleUp has become really short and the growth rates of ventures in the ScaleUp phase are stunning. So, despite the chasm between MVP and PMF, this early stage Cambrian Explosion phase attracts a lot of great entrepreneurs and investors.

How many in each Category

Here is the chart:

Insuretech

Here is our analysis of the Top 8 Categories:

Health. No surprise here. It is a US specific opportunity but massive. Here is our take on one of the biggest players – Oscar.

Auto. The Telematics sensors opportunity (aka Internet of Things In My Car) is a potential game-changer to assess risk (and thus to price premiums).

Comparison Sites. This sounds boring and is certainly not disruptive. However, it is a really useful service for consumers and has a simple proven business model and we assume that at least one Comparison site by country and by insurance specialty will probably thrive.

Sharing Economy. This is a blue ocean opportunity. It is so new as a need that the incumbents don’t offer a clear focused proposition, leaving the market window open for startups.

Commercial. There is a complexity in Small Business Insurance that is an advantage for ventures that understand the nuances. Insurance incumbents, like banks, have tended to ignore Small Business, leaving the market window open for startups.

P2P. Peer To Peer Insurance is one of those concepts that may change the world or may fade away. The jury aka market is still out on this one and the MVP to PMF chasm awaits any that stumble on route to market. Our take on Lemonade is here.

Life. As Amy Radin points out, Life Insurance has been a market left to decay by incumbents, leaving the market window open for startups.

Property. There is a lot of room for innovation around using Blockchain for provenance/title and there is big risk to manage around new non-linear risks (not easy to model statistically) related to extreme weather and terrorism.

Daily Fintech Advisers provide strategic consulting to organizations with business and investment interests in Fintech. Bernard Lunn is a Fintech thought-leader.

 

Who’ll help small business get credit-score ‘fit’?

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As consumers, many of us are in the dark about our personal credit score. Sure, we can probably find it out, but how many of us would know, off the top of our heads, where on earth to start?

And it’s not just consumers that need to take a more active interest in their credit history. Personal checks are usually part and parcel of any small business owner’s finance application. In fact, having a good credit score can mean tens of thousands of dollars saved each year on borrowing costs.

In what has to be one of the greatest fintech growth marketing hacks in recent years – well in Australia anyway – personal lender SocietyOne launched a campaign in 2015 offering Australians free access to their personal credit score. Within days, 50,000 Australians had logged on to the site to claim theirs, generating millions of dollars of publicity for the company in the process.

While getting consumers engaged about their credit score has no doubt helped SocietyOne spruik their personal loans, other startups like Credit Savvy in Australia and Credit Karma in the US are helping consumers not only access their score, but shop it around multiple providers. It’s truly the beginning of a serious credit revolution.

So in the interests of firsthand research, I decided to try it out myself via Credit Savvy.

It was, as it turns out, relatively painless. After inputting a few details about myself and providing my passport number, within 2 minutes, there it was, staring back at me: my credit score.

The results however were moderately underwhelming. Turns out I’m ‘Okay’ – not ‘Good’, ‘Very Good’ or even ‘Excellent’. A terminal high achiever in other aspects of my life, I was rather disappointed in my averageness. So I dug a little deeper. And of course, it just kept getting greyer. The only real clue as to my middle of the road result were a number of credit card applications. No glaring defaults, or serious credit infringements.

So I started hunting around, for tips and tricks I could do to increase my score. Needless to say, most of the advice I found was directed at individuals with serious faults to their name. Given that wasn’t me, what next?

The next port of call was my bank. Looking at my thin credit file, it appeared there was no positive reporting regarding my timely credit card repayments. Comprehensive Credit Reporting (CCR), which documents both positive and negative information about an individual can help consumers like me drive up their score. After further investigation, it appeared neither of the major financial institutions I banked with had chosen to ‘voluntarily’ participate in Australia’s CCR regime.

After this I got a little mad. There’s so much more to me! What about my wage, my level of education, my service provider loyalty? Or my multiple income streams, hedging me against economic downturns? Surely all of this paints a very different picture of me as a borrower?

Well, it turns out more and more fintech startups agree. In fact some online lenders, like SoFi are eschewing traditional credit scores altogether, claiming they aren’t ‘a real driver of credit performance’.

Then there’s startups like Aire, who are stepping into the ‘grey’ void in an effort to try and humanise credit scoring for other companies. Aire generates its own score after assessing responses to simple questions around financial behaviour. Coupled with machine learning, the company looks to partner with companies who after trying the ‘traditional assessment route’, hit a grey zone, or ‘marginal decline’.

There seems to be an opportunity for a fintech startup to grab the bull by the horns when it comes to credit scoring. Helping people like me – who in theory could be the small business borrowers of the future – get credit score ‘fit’. What about an online lender that promised to help its borrowers do exactly that? It’s a reversal of protectionary bank think, which looks to keep its borrowers on a need to know basis when it comes to their credit score. If, heaven forbid, it might help them negotiate a little harder.

Daily Fintech Advisers provides strategic consulting to organizations with business and investment interests in Fintech. Jessica Ellerm is a thought leader specializing in Small Business.

King George meets Bitcoin and walks away confused

George_III_in_Coronation_Robes

In the eyes of Bitcoin fans, they are like the American revolutionaries, a rag-taggle army up against established powers. Of course, in this story line, the might of King George is defeated, but nobody knows how this Bitcoin story will play out. In this note we look at Bitcoin from the point of view of King George (how regulators in different countries view Bitcoin).  We have some sympathy for King George. The rag-taggle army cannot even agree on what Bitcoin is (Currency? Asset? Payment Rail?). The Bitcoin community has no equivalent of George Washington who can mandate something as simple when to capitalize (I have capitalized Bitcoin to allow for both use cases and maybe flamed for this) and the Bitcoin rag-taggle army often appear to be more vociferous in fighting each other than fighting King George. Welcome to the chaos of freedom. To stretch the analogy too far, George Washington may not be able to motivate the rag-taggle army. If consumers simply shrug and walk away, what sovereign regulators do becomes a moot point. We believe that there is still a reasonable chance that Bitcoin will change the world and so it is worth looking at what the sovereign regulators are doing.

Three things that worry King George

  • # 1: Will citizens be exposed to more fraud & crime?
  • # 2: Will citizens desert their national currency?
  • # 3: How will we collect tax?

Four Types of Countries

  • Offshore Countries positioning as global hubs
  • Countries with weak currencies
  • Countries with a tendency towards freedom & innovation
  • Superpowers that may set the de facto standard

Offshore Countries positioning as global hubs

These are countries with small populations and local economies that make money by being a global hub in some way. Derided as tax havens in the past, many are now re-positioning to attract Bitcoin entrepreneurs. They have little to lose and a lot to gain. They have to make sure their country is not a perceived as a haven for tax evaders, money launderers and other bad actors. They are primarily concerned with how people outside their country use Bitcoin. If other countries adopt overly restrictive regulations, Bitcoin activity will move to these hubs. They have a natural role as a place to locate exchanges and vaults. The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are two counties positioning in this way.

Countries with weak currencies

These are countries that rightly fear that citizens will desert their national currency. If you suffered hyperinflation in Zimbabwe for example, Bitcoin looks pretty good. These countries are too numerous to name. The simple rule of thumb is that when you see a country ban Bitcoin, they are worried about currency flight. The real decision by citizens when their national currency is losing its spending power is do they use barter or physical US Dollars (any strong currency will do but US Dollars are well understood and tend to be used in these situations) If there are physical Bitcoins in circulation they can be an alternative.

One country with a weak currency that is taking a more innovative approach is Tunisia (Dinar is the currency, TND is the symbol). Tunisia has become the first country to issue their national currency on the Blockchain. Note that this is not as radical as a country adopting Bitcoin as their national currency. Tunisia still has control over their currency. This is all about financial inclusion and mobile money. Tunisia already has a digital currency called the eDinar that is issued through the Tunisian Post. The eDinar is designed for the over 3 million Tunisian adults who have no banking relationship (but which use the Post Office). With this announcement, Tunisia offers an Android app powered by Monetas, which allows their citizens to “make instant mobile money transfers, pay for goods and services online and in person, send remittance, pay salaries and bills, and manage official government identification documents.” The country that kicked off the Arab Spring with one entrepreneur with a mobile phone may kick off a revolution in digital currency.

Our thesis on Daily Fintech is First the Rest then the West. Innovation is reversing direction and starting in the Rest Of the World where there is greater need and where it is possible to leapfrog using new technology. The leadership today is coming from China and India. It may come from Africa in future. For a purely fun science fiction view of where this could go, read The Pan African Currency Union based on bitcoin replaces US $ as reserve currency.

Countries with a tendency towards freedom & innovation

These countries also often have strong currencies. Take Switzerland as an example. The Swiss love their currency. It has historically been a strong store of value; so Bitcoin does not appear like a threat. Because of an unusual bit of history (which Daily Fintech first spotted a year ago in Geneva), Switzerland is officially a multicurrency country. There is a legal alternative currency in Switzerland called WIR that was created in 1934 by people who wanted to create an alternative to a financial system that had failed so dramatically in 1929. Does that sound familiar? WIR accounts for a tiny % of Swiss GDP but it is real, useful and legal. So, by default, Switzerland is a multi-currency country and Bitcoin is legal tender. One cannot imagine Swiss people exchanging Swiss Francs for Bitcoin in order to switch into another weaker currency. This is no threat to the national currency. However it does help to position Switzerland as a hub for innovation. Switzerland also has strong privacy laws, which was the driver for the pretty dramatic news of a Silicon Valley company moving to Europe, reversing the usual flow of entrepreneurs from Europe to Silicon Valley (Xapo story on Daily Fintech is here). It is no surprise that Switzerland ranks #1 in the Global Innovation Index and that the Zurich Zug corridor is emerging as Crypto Valley.

Other countries with a strong currency and a history of innovation (ie not dependent on oil for a strong currency), but without superpower status include Australia and New Zealand. Like many other countries they are adopting a relatively laissez faire position of delaying any Bitcoin specific regulation.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand expresses this as follows:

“Non-banks do not need our approval for schemes that involve the storage and/or transfer of value (such as ‘bitcoin’) – so long as they do not involve the issuance of physical circulating currency (notes and coins).”

Luxembourg is also being proactive. The country issued a license to SnapSwap in October 2015. SnapSwap is another example of a company relocating from America to Europe. This indicates that innovation within the Eurozone is possible.

Superpowers that may set the de facto standard for regulation

China would like the Remnimbi to replace the US $ as reserve currency and this tends to make them anti-Bitcoin. However China is such a big and dynamic economy and such a big player in Bitcoin Mining that one should never count them out.

America is the obvious candidate to take a leadership role but is hobbled by battles between States (New York and California have very different points of view).

European Union could take a leadership role because both America and China may leave the way clear for somebody else to take leadership.

Take a chill pill King George

  • # 2: Will citizens desert their national currency? Not if you avoid the temptation to inflate away your currency. If you do, your citizens will use gold, US$ or Bitcoin. The issue is not Bitcoin.
  • # 3: How will we collect tax? Treat Bitcoin as an asset and tax the capital gains. That is simple and most countries already do this.

Daily Fintech Advisers provide strategic consulting to organizations with business and investment interests in Fintech. Bernard Lunn is a Fintech thought-leader.

 

In search of Robo-advisor Actual Performance. Anything out there?

Performance Monitor

Aphrodite, a mobile cross-continental femme, shared publicly on the Daily Fintech platform her account integration concerns and her confusion in choosing from the multiple financial service providers that are competing to satisfy her needs.

Unfortunately, the seasoned women in digital wealth management working on bridging the gender gap, Sallie Krawcheck and Gemma Godfrey, are focused for now in their respective regions (US, UK). Ellevest, co-founded by Sallie, who from junior analyst at Salomon Brothers raised to CEO of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, operates only in the US. Moola, founded by Gemma, who started at Goldman Sachs and raised to multiple senior positions in fund management, is just launching in the UK.

Aphrodite’s needs are more complex. She made it clear to her husband:

  • Ping: Listen, online ex-brokers that have become investment advisors or offer all sorts of DIY tools, sound fine to me. I get your points but it seems to me that we have shifted the confusion and difficulty of evaluating such services, from offices and branches simply online. So, how is that better? I am actually more confused because there are increasingly more service providers online, out there. I know Fees has been their marketing campaign but hey, this isn’t a car ride to try it out and use it once in a while when convenient. So don’t you Uber me for our financial needs.
  • Pong: If you’re not comfortable being serviced from an ex-broker, just because of your preconceptions about their hidden agendas on pushing products etc; we can go down the route of these new robo-advisors. Not so new any more. The only issue with them is that they are not that global, so we would need to pick and choose at least two; one for the Americas and one for our European holdings.
  • Ping: For me that wouldn’t be the determining factor, I am okay with two choices. Actually, my priorities are:
    1. Performance
    2. Ease of accessibility when needed
    3. Transparency of costs & Costs
    4. Ease of use, mobile, contextual investment research

And the order is not coincidental. With this whipsaw in the markets, I am not focusing on saving 50bps on commissions when I can loose 1000bps (10%) in a couple of weeks. Watching my holdings be in the red while not being able to communicate, will force me to hit that sell button on my smartphone when I should not.

Broadcasting pause of Ping-Pong communication of the couple.

Aphrodite sent me looking for performance figures of robo-advisors. Is it predominantly we women who care first about performance? Maybe Sallie Krawcheck knows more about this since her platform already takes a more goal-based approach tailored to women’s way of thinking.

Earlier this year, I had proposed that Trust and performance would be the name of the game for robos this year instead of fees.

Show me WHY I should trust you and WHERE is the performance.

It is too early to evaluate this proposition. However, I am appalled by the crumbs of evidence that I am finding on robo-advisory performance. One can of course, argue that no investment portfolio is the same and therefore, benchmarking returns isn’t a clean business. But hey, this issue has been around forever whether the returns come from offline Mungers or super-algos. Performance network has made this easy and simple and is inviting individuals and institutions to join the “The performance transparency movement”. This is originating in Europe but has no inherent barriers.

It is so odd that standalone robo-advsiors aren’t reporting their performance based on the global GIPS standards, an investment management standard that isn’t a regulation or mandatory compliance rule.

The Global Investment Performance Standards (GIPS®) are a set of standardized, industry-wide ethical principles that provide investment management firms with guidance on how to calculate and report their investment results to prospective clients.

Yes we live in a world that crowd-sourced information, if processed appropriately, could offer value (e.g. Estimize). However, I am not looking to find crowd-sourced forecasts of future performance of robo-advisors. I am not interested either in back testing their performance, because I understand the shortcomings and advantages of such calculations and graphs (from the old days of working in the hedge fund investment management business). I simply want to be able to see, Actual Performance and be able to choose periods and benchmarks; before actually becoming a client. I want to make sure that reported results are not from “cherry picking” accounts, back testing, and inadequate opaque disclosures.

My findings of actual robo-perfomance are poor. I picked them (very few anyway) based on page authority, since none of them are what I am really looking for.

Hedgeable has been computing a Robo-index and has calculated a 2yr composite return using certain reconstructed portfolios from Betterment and Wealthfront. The Robo-index methodology is explained on their site. No intention to go into any details.

  • Dear Aphrodite, a 2yr annualized performance of -0.53% is reported from a back testing methodology.

Then there is Meb Faber (not to be confused our Swiss compatriot with Mr. Gloom Boom Doom, Marc Faber) founder of Cambria, who launched in Fall 2015 the first no-fee global allocation ETF that we’ve already discussed. Meb Faber reconstructed the 2015 performance of 5 portfolio allocations from Betterment and Wealthfront. The allocations of each of these portfolios are described in Faber’s 2014 WealthFront And Betterment Allocations. He reports the reconstructed and backtested performance results for each of these:
Faber robo performance

Source: Performance Review of Betterment and Wealthfront

  • Dear Aphrodite, the 2015 performance of 5 representative portfolios from the two largest standalone robo-advisors in the US, range from -1% to -4.60% for the more aggressive ones. Unfortunately, again using a back testing methodology offered to subscribers of Idea Farm, a subscription based investment research platform.

Now over to Europe. Nutmeg is only one that I sourced from a New year’s report on their website: Nutmeg’s three-year results: How we delivered great returns for our customers. Such delayed reporting cant become an industry standard. Neither can performance be presented in a company blog post, as a competition outperformance brag, which lacks many of the key requirements suggested in GIPS.

  • Aphrodite, Nutmeg reports 6.1% annualized return for the past 3 calendar yrs. For 2015, a rocky year, 1%.

The lack of GIPS performance reporting from standalone robo-advisors is Odd and contradictory to their mission.

Any actual performance reports that I am missing?

Any robo-advisor showing at least on a monthly basis their actual GIPS performance?

Any industry led reporting standards for standalone robo-advisors, in the pipeline?

Daily Fintech Advisers provides strategic consulting to organizations with business and investment interests in Fintech. Efi Pylarinou is a Digital Wealth Management thought leader.

Bitcoin ecosystem health check and the emergence of a Clearnet for rich outsiders

 

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During 2015, Bitcoin fell into the slough of despond while its underlying technology, Blockchain, rode the media roller coaster to the top. We believe that the reality cycle and the media cycle are mostly disconnected. So we did a Bitcoin ecosystem health-check (TL:DR, patient is OK and can return to work) and posit one theory on how Bitcoin could climb out of the slough of despond and fulfill the dreams that many have harbored.

Bitcoin Ecosystem Health Check

First we checked out the price action. For the Bitcoin patient to thrive, we need a steady rise over some extended period. Some wild volatility is OK as it gets attention from media and traders and as the old saying goes “all press is good press”. However, a steady decline over a long enough time could make even true believers give up (what traders call capitulation). The 12 month chart at Coindesk confirms that the patient is OK – not ready to run a marathon, but healthy enough to return to work.

 

The question is whether this is sustainable. Traders need something real to trade. Bitcoin could become a niche alternative to gold (easier to carry but not as fun to look at) but it is easier to imagine this niche use case if Bitcoin also has a real use case as a currency to pay for stuff. So we went looking for evidence that people are using Bitcoin to pay for stuff.

I don’t want to add to the landfill of opinions, so I went to the data source about Bitcoin at Blockchain.info to check out merchant transaction volume. This tells us whether Bitcoin is moving the needle for all those merchants who announced that they were accepting Bitcoin. Market price is a lagging indicator. Merchant transaction volume is a leading indicator.

I prefer to look at Estimated Transaction Volume in Bitcoin (rather than looking at it in USD, as this is distorted by Bitcoin exchange price). The chart looks OK but not great. However like charts used by traders, you have to triangulate. Any single chart has flaws. See that spike around December/January? Was that a sudden hunger spike by rich nerds paying for super expensive pizza? It is more likely to be related to people getting money out of China (plus some speculative trading on top).

Fortunately, somebody else spotted this issue after the wild market price swings in 2011 and those helpful data folks at Blockchain.info took note and created another chart called Trade Volume vs Transaction Volume Index.

If the folks at Blockchain.info are listening, the chart that would be most useful is Transaction Volume with trading taken out.

The data does not support a “bitcoin is dead story”. However I cannot see how much of the volume is Darknet. If anybody has that data source, please share.

Clearnet for rich outsiders

This is where we move from the data to market thesis. Hard core data junkies can click away at this point. If you have unusual but expensive stuff to sell, you might want to pay attention.

My theory is that the Bitcoin economy is currently in Phase 2, which I label the Clearnet for rich outsiders phase:

  • Phase 1 = Darknet. Illegal online transactions enabled by Bitcoin were made (in)famous by Silk Road.This got some media attention and confirms the old saying that, “there is no such thing as bad press”.
  • Phase 2 = Clearnet for Bitcoin early investors. This is the phase we are in today. The merchant logic here is very simple. If a rich person wants to pay me in some unusual currency, I am motivated to accept that currency. Enough people got rich speculating in Bitcoin or mining Bitcoin in the early days for this to be a real niche market. These people are Bitcoin enthusiasts, so if they see two objects they desire equally and one says “we accept Bitcoin” then that rich customer will choose the merchant who accepts Bitcoin. This is fundamentally different from phase 1 because a) it is legal and b) we will start to see merchant success stories akin to the merchants who were early adopters on the Internet.

As always, these phases overlap – “the future is already here, it is just not very evenly distributed.” (thanks William Gibson). The Darknet is still with us.

Quite a few people became seriously rich mining Bitcoin in the early days. So this is a real market. These are outsiders in mindset, but they are rich outsiders.

Cross border transactions are a natural as you also save on all those fees. ZDNet has a good story on home-owners in Italy (usually foreigners) charging in Bitcoin to rent them out.

It will be interesting to see if Open Bazaar helps drive this adoption. Their open commerce pitch (decentralized markets for decentralized money) will appeal to the Bitcoin-rich outsiders.

 

Daily Fintech Advisers provide strategic consulting to organizations with business and investment interests in Fintech. Bernard Lunn is a Fintech thought-leader.

 

China & India may define the future of Insurance and InsurTech

rise-of-the-restImage courtesy of Futures Group

A major thesis at Daily Fintech is that digital financial inclusion is driving what we call “first the Rest then the West“. This reversal of the flow of innovation is a big 21st century megatrend. We have already described this happening in mobile payments thanks to real consumer needs and a leapfrogging over old technology. This may also be happening in Insurance, which is a key plank to a middle class life. Both China & India have a growing middle class. So the demand is strong and the lack of a big established insurance industry offers the opportunity to leapfrog the West in the use of new technology and business models.

China

Zennon Kapron of Kapronasia explains why we should be paying attention to Insurance in China:

“As China’s middle class becomes wealthier, they have increasingly looked at insurance as both a way of protecting their family, but as an investment vehicle. This increased demand has driven fundamental changes in China’s insurance industry both in terms of overall maturity and technology adoption.”

In China the InsurTech company to watch is Zhong An (site in Chinese only).

Zhong An is a pure play InsurTech venture. Zhong An is also a full stack InsurTech venture; they are a regulated Insurance company that can offer a full suite of services. Think of it like a challenger Insurance – digital first. When we write “venture” in the West we tend to think “venture capital”. In China, think “joint venture”. Zhong An was created by three established Chinese companies:

  • Alibaba (think Amazon, eBay & PayPal merged together)
  • TenCent (think Facebook & Twitter)
  • Ping An (Insurance company)

You can see a single round over $900m on Crunchbase; no step ladder funding here.

Zhong An first got traction from return-delivery insurance for buyers on Taobao.com (Alibaba online marketplace) and is a specialist in providing cover for various risks relating to the internet economy.

Zhong An sells direct, not via traditional insurance agents.

According to this WSJ report, Zhong An is headed towards IPO. Zhong An has underwritten more than 1.6 billion insurance policies and paid out 369 million in claims

Another InsurTech venture to watch in China is TongJuBao, which describes itself as a P2P risk sharing platform through communities of shared interests and social relations among Internet users.

Their funding process looks more familiar to the West with an English language site. We can even see a pitch on Angel List.

In the West we have Lemonade, Guevara, Friendsurance, and Inspeer with a P2P risk sharing model. The point about “first the Rest then the West” is that TongJuBao is clearly not a story about China copying Western models. It could be that P2P risk sharing Insurance gets traction first in China.

India

We are not seeing the same level of ambition and innovation in India despite a similar sized market opportunity.

Crop insurance is a big deal in India where by some estimates close to half of employed Indians work in agriculture. However, rather than technology innovation (perhaps opening futures and options market on farm commodities) we are seeing old fashioned Government subsidies.

One venture getting traction is Policy Bazaar. Their online insurance comparison site claims 5,000,000 customers seeking both life and non-life insurance. Policy Bazaar Has received $69.6m in VC funding and has a Pitch that is designed against traditional agents – “we don’t SELL, we TELL!”

Another InsurTech venture in India to watch is Coverfox. They raised $12m just under a year ago and have a similar comparison model to Policy Bazaar, with a slight edge in mobile UX as per some people.

The online insurance comparison model does not count as innovative these days and has low barriers to entry. The point is that in markets such as India with so much new demand for insurance from an emerging middle class, just making the selection process easier can create a big business.

It is not just China and India. This innovation is also coming from other Asian markets and from Africa and Latin America. It is likely that the future of Insurance will be defined in the Rest not the West.

Please tell us in comments which InsurTech ventures in China and India that we have missed.

Daily Fintech Advisers provide strategic consulting to organizations with business and investment interests in Fintech. Bernard Lunn is a Fintech thought-leader.