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Allianz Global Investors goes digital in Asia

WeLab, meet risklab: AllianzGI’s Desmond Ng says the partnership with a virtual bank is just the start.



Desmond Ng, Allianz Global Investors

Allianz Global Investors announced a partnership with WeLab, the Hong Kong fintech, in March. Now Desmond Ng, AllianzGI’s head of Asia Pacific, says the deal will be the firm’s first building block for going digital in the region.

AllianzGI is using the partnership with WeLab – which is one of eight licensed virtual banks in Hong Kong – to help extend its risklab platform to retail investors in Asia.

Risklab is AllianzGI’s fintech arm for client advice that is customized and geared toward specific outcomes. It is based in Munich and operates in Europe, the Middle East and the Americas, for all customer segments.

AllianzGI is bringing risklab now to Asia just to serve institutional investors with insights around things like strategic asset allocation and portfolio optimization. It’s now also building a service to help investors factor for ESG criteria. Globally, risklab manages about €100 billion ($121 billion) in quantitative strategies (out of AllianzGI’s global AUM of €598 billion, or $725 billion).

Partnering with WeLab…

This was already happening when the firm’s corporate venture arm, Allianz X, took the lead stake in WeLab’s latest funding round.

“We are committed to jointly develop wealth-management digital products, combining our asset-management expertise and risklab capabilities, to help WeLab build portfolios for their clientele,” said Ng (main photo).

For AllianzGI, though, the WeLab partnership is meant to be just the first step. It wants to build additional partnerships – with traditional banks, other virtual banks, or fintech platforms with a customer base – to service digitally enabled investors.

Philip Tso, AllianzGI’s head of institutional business for Asia Pacific, says the firm wants to deepen its relationships with traditional bank distributors. “But the growth is in the digital space,” he said. “We want to add value to the ultimate investor. Risklab is our engine. It’s forward-looking and matches to an investor’s personal objectives.”

Philip Tso, Allianz Global Investors

One of the benefits of teaming up with WeLab is it gives AllianzGI the chance to promote risklab’s capabilities to a different investor set. On its own in Asia, AllianzGI is only marketing this to institutional investors.

…and seeking the next deal

But the technology is designed for all types of customers, and Ng says high-net-wealth individuals are a critical type of client, especially given their fast growth in Asia. By developing products and services for WeLab’s users, AllianzGI can begin to expand risklab to affluent and wealthy individuals.

Ng and Tso declined to detail the product being developed with WeLab, but said it will launch by the end of the year.

Ng says this is not a stepping stone to other projects: it’s a bespoke deal for WeLab in Hong Kong. But he says the firm is exploring a variety of other partnerships to leverage risklab’s capabilities and reach Asia’s growing ranks of wealthy, digitally savvy investors.

“Many banks are investing in digital and looking to co-create, personalize content, and tailor solutions,” he said. While WeLab is attractive because it is a pure digital channel, more traditional partners will require a different proposition.

“Our focus right now,” Ng said, “is to get the Hong Kong platform with WeLab off the ground.”

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