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HK-based digital insurer first online-only operator to earn a license in the region

According to a recent report, a Hong Kong-based digital insurer recently announced that it became the first online-only operator to earn a license in the country while it has also revealed it has raised an HK$234 million ($30 million) Series A funding round.

Founded just over one year ago, the company plans to offer a range of health-focused insurance products to Hong Kong consumers and will launch in the first half of 2019; however, per the “virtual” insurer license issued by Hong Kong’s Insurance Authority (IA), it will not maintain any physical presence for consumers.

While in stark contrast to the traditional industry, the idea is to pass on cost benefits to consumers, provide strong offline customer service and offer a more transparent experience.

The company’s vision has already acquired some heavy backing; a US$20 billion global insurance giant is one investor in that Series A round via its Hong Kong business unit. The other backer is a two-year-old funding program backed by one of the world’s most powerful people.

In an interview, the co-founder and co-CEO of the company stressed that his company will operate independently of the insurance company that invested in it.

The co-CEO clarified that there will be no sharing of customers or customer data. He painted a picture of a business that is curious about the potential of digital-only services and keen to see what a startup can do with a leaner and more agile model.

However, the co-CEO was unable to confirm the size of the insurance company’s investment, and whether it owns a majority of the startup.

The investors noted that they seek to help the start-up in its commitment to enhancing the customer experience, while enabling new distribution modes through the latest technology and digital innovations, according to the CEO of the investing insurance company.

The company will potentially collaborate on expansions if the plans pan out.

That’s looking a little far into the future for a company that has only just received the regulatory green light. When pushed on a potential expansion strategy, such as possible markets and entry times, Chan said there’s currently no information to share.

The company’s founders met and together visualized the potential for a disruptive online play whilst working in consulting and other companies. The IA’s “fast track” for virtual insurers was the spark that enabled them to develop a program which quickly attracted more than 40 applicants — including global firms..

The start-up seeks to deliver convenience through technology; its market research shows Hong Kong consumers would love to be able to sign up for health insurance and submit a claim online, but the insurance industry has essentially operated the same way when it first began 300 years ago.

Unlike others in the tech space across Asia, the start-up doesn’t plan to locate its development team in other parts of the world, despite the challenge of hiring tech teams in Hong Kong, as they believe there is good talent in Hong Kong.”

Where it has needed to, the co-CEO noted that the company has hired from overseas, including Silicon Valley.

Certainly, the ongoing privacy snafus from U.S. tech companies and the polarizing politics mean that markets like Hong Kong have never been in a stronger position to lure new hires from Silicon Valley, New York, London and other Western hubs.

Meanwhile, its insurance industry hires have from come from many other massive insurance firms.

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