Nina Zhou built a career in investment banking in the U.S. and Asia before making the jump to fintech, joining CreditEase, then one of the pioneering peer-to-peer lending marketplaces.
“I didn’t know what P2P was in China,” she said. But Zhou, a Chinese citizen, sensed opportunity in the country’s emerging fintech industry, and wanted to experience the energy and growth of working in a Chinese company.
She was also intrigued by the opportunity to start and run CreditEase’s fintech fund, the first in China to offer retail investors a chance to invest in the sector, globally.
Zhou says fintech in banking and payments has become saturated, but insurance is in its early stages of transformation, as the technology is enabling customer connectivity, or pricing new segments that were previously not revenue opportunities. “Technology can make entire classes of risk pools attractive, and with collaboration, you can share the risk,” she said.
As a banker, she had provided M&A advice to SwissRe. Now the reinsurer was looking for someone to spearhead principal investments and acquisitions in Asia. Zhou saw a chance to combine her banking, fintech and investment experience, and joined Swiss Re in May.
Investments or acquisitions done on a financial basis must be relevant to insurance. Beyond identifying deals, Zhou is building use cases for tech to advance the business and to adapt business models. “The world continues to be technology-driven, and more products are becoming commoditized,” she said.
As with banking, she predicts the industry will cohere around real-time pricing, commoditizing fee structures for many products, and opportunities to reach new types of customers, such as small businesses.
“Tech companies don’t think about product: they think about trends, and how to engage customers.” And as Zhou sees it, that’s the future of insurance, too.