Press Release

Insurtech drives emerging Asia innovation faster than developed insurance markets – Willis Towers Watson study

November 9, 2017
| China, Hong Kong, United States

HONG KONG, 9 November 2017 — Insurers in emerging markets are introducing innovative solutions faster than their peers in more developed insurance markets as advances in insurtech make it easier, quicker and cheaper for them to accurately assess customer behaviour, needs and risks, thereby opening the door to new business models.

In its Third Quarter InsurTech Briefing, Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ:WLTW), the leading global advisory, broking and solutions company, takes a close look at how insurtech is disrupting insurance markets, with a focus on China and Emerging Asia. It draws on research from Willis Towers Watson Securities and Willis Re, in collaboration with CB Insights.

By profiling representative companies, transactions and partnerships in the insurtech sector, the report offers detailed insights on the dynamic insurtech landscape in Asia.

  • New insurance products to meet demand for coverage on risks associated with China’s booming e-commerce sector. An example would be free-return insurance that helps retailers to increase sales by providing additional security to consumers via free shipping for product returns. Some even allow buyers with good credit to receive refunds immediately, instead of when returned items are received by merchants. This shows how data can transfer to credit, build trust, innovate insurance models and ultimately facilitate business.
  • Technology-based new entrants to the insurance industry now compete with traditional players by offering a more tailored and comprehensive range of products from a variety of carriers to a larger target market than insurers distributing traditional products through captive agency and bancassurance channels.
  • Tech giants armed with big data capabilities are playing a growing role in the evolving insurance value chain. They adopt different strategies, including:
    • Partnerships with multinational insurers to leverage global insurance capabilities and risk management expertise. Cases include Yunfeng Financial’s acquisition of MassMutual Asia and Tencent’s purchase of Aviva Hong Kong among others.
    • Establishment of De Novo insurers by leveraging big data and technology capabilities. One such case is Alibaba-backed Zhong An, China's first online-only insurance company.
    • Building technology-enabled distribution platforms to provide a “one-stop shop” for insurance products and services, including pricing and policy comparison tools, artificial intelligence-enabled consultation services and efficient online payment platforms. Cases include Taobao Insurance and JD Insurance.
  • Detailed analysis of Yunfeng’s acquisition of MassMutual Asia, including an interview with Eddie Ahmed, Chairman, President and CEO of MassMutual International, in which he talked about the rationale for entering into a partnership with Yunfeng as well as MassMutual’s view of how technology will impact the insurance industry in Asia in the immediate and long-term.
  • Insurtech in numbers: data that sheds light on insurtech transactions, partnerships, technology investments by (re)insurers, and the increasing start-up activities in China and emerging Asia.

“Existing products in China are highly commoditised with limited variation. The market is dominated by leading insurers that have minimal incentive to innovate. Technology advancements now enable smaller players to compete with established ones by offering all kinds of new products through new distribution models,” said Selina Hu, Executive Director at Willis Towers Watson Securities. “Technology development has also enabled entrants outside of the insurance industry. As Internet giants join the sector, the market has become more diversified and efficient.”

“At Willis Re, insurtech fits into our strategy to build relationships with leading start-ups, and then match their technology with the needs of clients; the objective being to nurture new lines of business and also cut inefficiencies,” said Mark Morley, Managing Director and Head of Willis Re for Asia. “Typically, we link insurtech start-ups with (mobile) carriers with strong bank and retailer networks. In the US and EU, we’re now into double figures for successful introductions between companies and carriers. We are now focusing on Asia as well.”

Kevin Angelini, Head of Strategy for the Insurance Consulting and Software business in Asia Pacific at Willis Towers Watson, commented: “We aim to become more agile and efficient in the way operations and processes are designed, and the use of technology – especially in data and analytics – is critical to this. In doing so, we hope to make our customer engagement solutions more customer-centric and help insurance companies innovate and transform their business models and craft a winning strategy.”

About Willis Towers Watson

Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ:WLTW) is a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company that helps clients around the world turn risk into a path for growth. With roots dating to 1828, Willis Towers Watson has 40,000 employees serving more than 140 countries. We design and deliver solutions that manage risk, optimize benefits, cultivate talent, and expand the power of capital to protect and strengthen institutions and individuals. Our unique perspective allows us to see the critical intersections between talent, assets and ideas – the dynamic formula that drives business performance. Together, we unlock potential. Learn more at

About Willis Towers Watson Securities

Willis Towers Watson Securities, with offices in New York, London, Hong Kong and Sydney, provides advice to companies involved in the insurance and reinsurance industry on a broad array of mergers and acquisition transactions as well as capital markets products, including acting as underwriter or agent for primary issuances, operating a secondary insurance-linked securities trading desk and engaging in general capital markets and strategic advisory work. Willis Towers Watson Securities is a trade name used by Willis Securities, Inc., a licensed broker dealer authorized and regulated by FINRA and a member of SIPC (“WSI”), Willis Towers Watson Securities Europe Limited (Registered number 2908053 and ARBN number 604 264 557), an investment business authorized and regulated by the UK Financial Conduct Authority (“WTW Securities Europe”) and Willis Towers Watson Securities (Hong Kong) Limited, a corporation licensed and regulated by the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission (“WTW Securities (HK)”).

About Willis Re

One of the world's leading reinsurance brokers, Willis Re is known for its world-class analytics capabilities, which it combines with its reinsurance expertise in a seamless, integrated offering that can help clients increase the value of their businesses. Willis Re serves the risk management and risk transfer needs of a diverse, global client base that includes all of the world's top insurance and reinsurance carriers as well as national catastrophe schemes in many countries around the world. The broker's global team of experts offers services and advice that can help clients make better reinsurance decisions and negotiate optimum terms. For more information, visit

About CB Insights

CB Insights is a Pilot Growth and National Science Foundation backed software company that uses data science, machine learning and predictive analytics to help customers predict what’s next. CB Insights has built a tech market intelligence platform that analyzes millions of data points on venture capital, startups, patents, partnerships and news media to predict technology trends.