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PODCAST: Money20/20 with Ping An

12:39pm March 22 2019

Ping An’s Jonathan Larsen (left), in conversation with Westpac’s Macgregor Duncan. (supplied) 

At the Money20/20 fintech and payments conference in Singapore this week, Jonathan Larsen, chief innovation officer of China’s largest non-state controlled financial technology Ping An, spoke about the shift to digital, technological trends and moving into other industries.  

“Today we are the only large institution in the world that is all cloud – we have no legacy technology,” Mr Larsen says in a podcast for Westpac Wire. 

Mr Larsen, who also runs Ping An’s $1 billion venture capital fund which invests in high growth fintech and healthtech companies around the world, said the group’s pivot towards technology-driven companies and industries was propelled by founder Peter Ma, who embarked on a process of expansion and digitisation soon after the company formed as an insurer in 1988. More recently, it’s been building “deep” artificial intelligence capabilities.

“In our life insurance business, we have 1.4 million agents and everything in their life is digital,” says Mr Larsen, a former senior executive at Citigroup. “From the way they’re recruited using chat-bot interviews which we find more reliable at scale than humans… to the way training is done. It’s 95 per cent automated now and it’s highly customised.” 

Ping An builds its own facial, voice and micro expression recognition technology, creating a powerful way to scale its financial services to hundreds of millions of customers, according to Mr Larsen. 

“It turns out there are 54 muscles in your face that move involuntarily... we've found that machines can now interpret this non-verbal communication. We now have voice robots that can have…conversations with you and you have no idea you're talking to a computer,” he says.   

“We're on the cusp of fundamental transformation and that's what a large part of Ping An's R&D is all about.”

Macgregor is the General Manager Corporate & Business Development where he’s responsible for mergers and acquisitions, strategic investments and partnerships, and data development. He is the executive sponsor for the Westpac Co-Lab, the FuelD Data Accelerator, and sits on the investment committee for Reinventure, Westpac’s $150m venture capital fund. Before joining Westpac in September 2016, Macgregor was a managing director at a private equity firm in New York, a senior executive at a Silicon Valley tech company, an investment banker at Goldman Sachs, and a corporate M&A lawyer. He graduated from Adelaide, Princeton and Harvard Universities. Outside Westpac, Macgregor hikes, camps and fishes whenever possible.

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