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China technology

Insurtech giant ZhongAn touts blockchain’s transformational power, signs up over 100 hospitals to improve claims processing

ZhongAn Tech now serves about 10 Chinese insurers, said Chen, helping them to tailor their services and improve risk analysis

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 May, 2018, 11:52am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 May, 2018, 11:20pm

ZhongAn Tech’s chief is on a mission and believes that blockchain, the distributed ledger technology behind cryptocurrencies, will play a “tremendous role” in transforming China’s centuries-old insurance sector.

“Insurance is backed by statistics and blockchain will help to connect that massive and varied data,” said Chen Wei, the tech unit chief of China’s largest online insurer ZhongAn Online Property & Casualty Insurance. “It will be used to manage risk and improve pricing.”

Chen said the company already has data-sharing agreements with over 100 hospitals in China to streamline record verification and automatic claims.

“Insurance sales used to rely on agents and individual sales people, however younger generations prefer making online purchases,” Chen said. “Insurance clients no longer need to file paper documents as proof, instead they can just say when and which hospital they attended.”

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ZhongAn Tech is the specialised technology incubator of ZhongAn, China’s first truly digital insurer founded by Alibaba Group chairman Jack Ma Yun, Tencent Holdings chairman Pony Ma Huateng and Ping An Insurance chairman Peter Ma Mingzhe in 2013. ZhongAn Tech now serves about 10 Chinese insurers, Chen said, helping them to better tailor their services and improve risk analysis.

ZhongAn Tech has already used blockchain to store all insurance policies from its parent ZhongAn Online in a secure manner, said Chen, speaking on the sidelines of the Big Data Expo in Guiyang, capital of the southwestern Chinese province of Guizhou, this week.

Chen said the insurtech start-up is also working with Shanghai’s insurance regulatory bureau to build a blockchain-based reinsurance platform, which can help improve security and the traceability of re-insured policies. “We are trying to combine blockchain with real life scenarios,” said Chen, adding that ZhongAn Tech has a dedicated team to explore avant-garde technologies.

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Blockchain, the technology that underpins bitcoin, is a digital data structure that is most recognised for verifying and recording transactions using a network of computers rather than a centralised authority. Blockchain and its applications have gained ground in China over the past year despite a crackdown by the authorities on the trading of cryptocurrencies, which rely upon the blockchain technology.

However, China is one of the first countries in the world to include blockchain technology in state-level policy, writing in into the 13th Five-Year Plan, a road map for national development from 2016 to 2020. President Xi Jinping also mentioned blockchain – along with artificial intelligence, quantum computing, mobile communications and the internet of things –as “a new generation of technologies that accelerate a breakthrough in applications” in a speech after he visited the Chinese Academy of Sciences on Monday.