AMTD Group, the Hong Kong-based financial services firm, is deepening its presence in Singapore, where it is vying for a virtual-bank license.
It has acquired a 51% stake in PolicyPal, a Singaporean startup, and will enmesh it into a growing coterie of acquisitions and alliances.
The move follows other deals that have taken AMTD from being a very local Hong Kong player into a regional one, with group CEO Calvin Choi (pictured, center) having made clear his intention to add a Singaporean identity to the firm.
That is going to be through AMTD Digital, which is being positioned as an integrated platform of various licensed digital-finance services, related big-data analytics, partnerships, and strategic investments. AMTD Digital has been promoting a pool of alliances it calls its SpiderNet, which ranges from equity partnerships to informal relationships, but adding PolicyPal marks the first concrete step towards turning this into a business.
The deal also further emphasizes the firm’s desire to cement Singapore as AMTD Digital’s headquarters, while the traditional investment bank and related businesses remain run from Hong Kong. Last year AMTD Group invested in AFIN, a Singapore-based platform connecting global fintechs with emerging-market banks; and acquired a building, the Oakwood Premium hotel/residence complex, from local developer OUE for S$289 million.
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Getting the org chart nailed down may remain a work in progress, with Frederic Lau president of Airstar Bank – the joint venture with Xiaomi that won one of Hong Kong’s eight virtual-bank licenses – and Val Yap, founder of PolicyPal, now positioned to take on a bigger role within the group. Michelle Li, former head of research at AMTD Group, is now head of AMTD Digital.
For Yap, the deal marks a new chapter. She set up PolicyPal to empower consumers to manage their insurance policies. The business morphed into becoming a B2B2C play, and now works with 30 local insurance companies to digitize their applications, management and claims processes. It then aggregates all of the data this creates in order to co-create new digital products with some of those carriers, such as on-demand insurance.
“We collect a lot of data about families and their assets and liabilities,” Yap said. “We now have a database that is rich in consumer finance, not just protection.” That makes the business attractive to a consortium approach in digital banking, whether in Singapore or in Hong Kong, where AMTD Group has its own insurance broker, in addition to its stake in Airstar Bank.
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PolicyPal has now aggregated 70 million insurance premiums and its platform has transacted $3 billion in sum assured life policies, Yap says. She says it began selling life insurance policies last year and already about one-third of buyers have returned to make a second purchase. “That’s quite good for a product like life insurance,” she said.
The coronavirus outbreak has also been a massive driver of new online traffic, and she says life insurance premiums sold on the platform have doubled in number over the “past few months”.
Yap and her team have ceded control of the business for the chance to grow the pie by embedding it in a bigger fintech play. AMTD did not disclose the price it paid for its controlling stake in PolicyPal, which involved both cash and equities. The group listed its investment-banking and asset-management business on Nasdaq as AMTD International.