Ping An is launching a $1bn fund to invest in financial and healthcare technology globally in a sign of the Chinese insurance group’s desire to expand its brand and business outside its home market.
The insurer, the world’s largest by market capitalization and fourth largest by total assets, has been building a reputation for tech investing in related fields, most notably developing Lufax, the Chinese wealth management platform valued at $19bn and Good Doctor, the health app worth $3bn in a 2016 funding round.
The new fund, named Global Voyager, will be headed by Jonathan Larsen, an 18-year veteran of Citigroup, who also becomes the Ping An group’s chief innovation officer.
“Ping An is predominantly Chinese but they are at the point where they are interested in looking at expansion opportunities and this fund potentially provides a way of accessing these,” he said. “We think there’s a very substantial opportunity here.”
Mr. Larsen was most recently global head of Citi’s retail banking operations where he led many of the bank’s digital innovations such as voice biometrics for authenticating customers, which launched in Asia before a global rollout.
Ping An’s new fund will begin with $1bn that Mr. Larsen expects to be fully invested in three to four years. Investments will range from early-stage start-ups to ventures ready to scale up, either from standalone financing or from being adopted by the insurer itself.
“Ping An has significant resources and that’s not a little consideration here,” said Mr. Larsen. “The company is an organically-driven business and its traditional roots throw off enormous cash flow.”
The company last month reported first-quarter profits of Rmb23bn ($3.3bn), up 11 per cent from the same period last year, and a customer base of 138m.
Ping An’s new fund comes at a time when investors are increasingly questioning tech valuations in China where Good Doctor — an app that dispenses diagnoses and books doctor appointments — is one of the better-known offerings, although it competes against more than 2,000 healthcare apps.
“There is froth and it's not unique to China,” said Mr. Larsen. “It means we need to be very purposeful in the targets we pursue and how we allocate money.”
By Courtesy of FT