WeSure CEO on how fintech will change insurance

By enabling companies to make products more user-friendly and tailoring them better to client needs, fintech looks set to alter the insurance landscape in China, Alan Lau says.

There are many ways to have a good time and it's safe to say that buying insurance isn't one of them. 

However, that doesn't mean it has to be a chore either, which is why WeSure, a Tencent subsidiary that sells insurance over smartphones, thinks it can tube-ride the fintech wave within its industry and rise to the challenges posed by China's ageing and increasingly connected and affluent population.

“We want to bring more fun to insurance,” Alan Lau, the company's chief executive, told FinanceAsia in an interview during Hong Kong Fintech Week on Wednesday. “People didn’t seem to have much interest in reading complicated insurance terms, but people do read about healthcare news every day, they read about financial news every day. So we are thinking, why can’t they read about insurance? That is why we decided to make insurance more fun, and interactive with customers.”

Building such a reciprocal relationship of convenience, thinks Lau, will be key in determining the winners of tomorrow's insurance market in China, which remains a blank sheet compared with more developed markets. In a report published in June, consultants EY estimated insurance penetration levels in China to be betwen a third and a half of US, Japanese, French and UK levels.

“The insurance seller doesn’t usually interact with users until there is a claim, which means some accident has happened and no one wants to see that,” Lau said, presumably in part also because there will have to be an insurance payout.

Insurance sometimes is literally also about life and death, so people might rather not want to come into regular contact with the subject.

So WeSure put a lot of effort in to making their insurance products accessible in more intuitive ways.

To illustrate that Lau showed FinanceAsia a new feature on its WeChat app, or Mini Program, that can send child medical insurance policies as a gift. The interface was designed to look like a WeChat Red Envelope -- another app familiar to users of WeChat, the huge Chinese messaging and social media platform run by Tencent -- to make it easier for people to use and to encourage greater interactivity with WeSure products. 

Another feature that WeSure aims to release this year are premium discounts for people living healthier lifestyles. If authorised by users to link to the data gathered on their mobile phones, WeSure plans to review users’ walking distances and other exercise data, and reward users accordingly.



Lau said he has quite a specific idea about what a typical WeSure user might look like: someone with a stable job, probably recently married, or with a young child, or just settled down. 


"Probably decades ago your parents already bought you an insurance policy?," so you are closed to the idea of buying insurance, he said. "You spend most of your time online or on your mobile, [are] very familiar with purchasing stuff online, and you are a bit different ... [and] like to make decisions by yourself.”

Alan Lau, WeSure CEO

WeSure specifically targets user aged between 25 and 40 -- a generation that has benefited from the rapid growth of the Chinese economy and also mobile payment services. He called them the “rising middle class” and they make up 80% of WeSure’s user base.

These users are familiar with insurance but to a lesser extent than their counterparts in Europe or North America. And they are more comfortable buying through familiar online platforms than via traditional physical channels including individual agents.

A year after WeSure was founded in October 2017, Lau said it already had more than 10 million customers so far. And according to third-party research firm Quest Mobile, WeSure’s Mini Program is the third-most popular on the WeChat ecosystem.

And with the happy confluence of a growing middle class and rapidly developing technology, it is set to evolve in new ways, with different user segments and new ways of selling and customising products to fit people’s needs.

To appeal to this market, traditional insurance products will have to be redesigned so they are simpler, more transparent and affordable, Lau said. To this end, insurance and technology companies will have to collaborate more, and probably lean on artificial intelligence. 


There will have to be more of what Lau calls the “service” of online insurance selling rather than the hard sell. 

How to provide better service and maintain user loyalty is what insurance companies should be working on, he said, if customers are to get the products that fit with their daily lives.


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