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China's largest insurer is spending big on startups

Ping An Insurance wants to nurture hidden potential, says its innovation chief

Jonathan Larsen, CIO, Ping An Insurance (Group) Company of China, speaks to Nikkei Asian Review in Singapore. (Photo by Ken Kobayashi)

SINGAPORE China's largest insurance company by market capitalization has taken its $1 billion investment fund on a buying spree. The focus of Ping An Insurance (Group) is clear: minority stakes in midsize to large startups, mostly in developed markets, says Chief Innovation Officer Jonathan Larsen, giving Ping An capabilities that it can combine with its internal research efforts.

What is your plan regarding overseas-focused investments? The Ping An Global Voyager Fund is a $1 billion fund, funded entirely by Ping An, to invest in global fintech and health care technology companies. The objective is to access a much broader set of capabilities than we will be able to build ourselves internally, by investing in entrepreneurial companies. Today, it is frequently not the large institutions who are driving the innovation agenda, [but] small companies with new ideas and access to new technologies. The advent of mobile, cloud processing, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the realization of those capabilities globally at scale, has transformed the way innovation can happen. Therefore, for any company, no matter how innovative you are, it is very important to have this form of outreach.

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