Ping An chief: ‘Innovation can happen anywhere’
Written by Michelle Stevens
The new head of Ping An’s $1 billion technology investment fund has said that the insurance giant is predominantly looking to invest in FinTech companies from outside its homeland of China.
Speaking at this week’s Money 20/20 Europe in Copenhagen, Jonathan Larsen, chief innovation officer at the Ping An Group, and chairman and CEO of the Ping An Global Voyager Fund, said that 90 per cent of the time the financial and healthcare technology fund would be seeking opportunities over the border from China.
He told the conference: “Having observed the entrepreneurial sector of FinTech very closely over the last five to six years, there is no boundary that defines where innovation can happen anymore. The advent of cloud and the availability of technologies that are driving innovation means that we see really exciting innovation everywhere – which includes continental Europe on a significant scale.”
Ping An is the largest insurance company in the world by market capitalisation, and employs 270,000 staff, including 20,000 tech developers. Larsen, the former global head of retail banking and mortgages at Citigroup, took up his new roles at Ping An six weeks ago.
He described $10 million to $30 million as the “sweet spot” in terms of the Global Voyager Fund’s ideal investment size, adding that it was particularly interested in companies that were three to five years old.
“For us, the objective of the fund is to access strategic capabilities on a global basis and to find opportunities where we can gain leverage through access to those capabilities,” he continued. “It can take many forms; it could be as loose as an information sharing undertaking, as an investor in a company where we are in parallel businesses in different markets and we are simply learning from each other, all the way through to a hard joint venture, a licensing agreement or a cooperation agreement.”
Asked how future technology innovations may take shape, he said: “I think if you look at the next decade, you have to be focused on where AI and machine learning are taking us and what that means. Most of us have experience with chatbots, for example, but where that goes is at a totally different level to what we have seen so far, and I think we are just seeing the very beginning of that. We now have reliable biometrics, but we don’t have are those biometrics deployed at massive scale for all the security or access requirements that we need, so that is exciting to me.”