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Asia300

Top Asian insurers dig deeper into fintech and health tech

Ping An and AIA rewarded with big profits as demand soars

More than 200 million people use Ping An's Good Doctor app, seen here. The online health care platform lets individuals get advice, schedule visits and buy medicine.   © Reuters

HONG KONG -- Some of Asia's leading insurance companies are pouring resources into the use of information technology to provide services related to finance and health care -- fields known as fintech and health tech.

China's Ping An Insurance Group has tapped its technological capabilities for a campaign to become a comprehensive financial company. The group intends to provide innovative services, including those geared toward data-driven smart cities, CEO Ma Mingzhe told reporters Wednesday.

Net profit in Ping An's fintech and health tech division totaled 4.2 billion yuan ($611 million) in the first half of 2018, soaring tenfold from the year-ago period on strong showings by group companies like Lufax, which operates an online financial services platform.

Though the division produced just 7% of the group's profit for January-June, its growth far exceeded that of the insurance and banking divisions. Ping An's overall net profit rose 34%.

Lufax raised its base of registered users by nearly 20% to 36.84 million over the past 12 months, despite the shakeout in China's peer-to-peer lending sector.

Ping An also boasts more than 200 million users of its Good Doctor online health care platform, where individuals can use smartphones to receive advice, schedule clinic visits and buy medications.

The Chinese group is studying the use of artificial intelligence and blockchain. An analyst at ICBC International praised Ping An for bolstering its competitiveness through innovative technologies.

Hong Kong-based AIA Group, a life insurer operating in 18 Asian markets, is busily embracing the digitization of services as well. The company has partnered with WeDoctor, a Chinese provider of online health care services affiliated with Tencent Holdings. In June, AIA launched a website in Hong Kong for online sales of insurance.

AIA possesses a powerful stable of sales agents, but the company recognizes how digitization might transform how people live, President Ng Keng Hooi said.

The group also strengthened its hand in July by greeting Daisuke Iwase, co-founder of Japanese online insurance company Lifenet Insurance, as AIA's new chief digital officer.

AIA reported a 14% increase in operating profit on the year for the January-June half. Asia's expanding middle class provides plenty of room for growth in the insurance business for companies with digital skills.

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