Financial technology and digital health are two key investment areas for one of China's largest insurance companies, according to a senior executive.
Ping An is a major finance conglomerate in China, doing business in insurance, banking, investment and technology. Last year, the Shenzhen-based company launched its $1 billion Global Voyager Fund to invest in start-ups outside its home market in a major overseas push. That put it in direct competition with tech giants Alibaba and Tencent — both of which have invested widely in foreign markets.
The Global Voyage Fund is "a billion-dollar fund focused on fintech and digital health, which are two of the most important areas for our company," Ping An Insurance Group Chief Innovation Officer Jonathan Larsen told CNBC's Nancy Hungerford on Saturday at the IMF and World Bank annual meetings in Bali, Indonesia.
Larsen, a former Citi banker, is also chairman and CEO for the Global Voyager Fund and manages it out of Hong Kong.
"We're finding really very interesting opportunities right now," he said, pointing particularly to health-related areas including digital imaging, X-rays and brain scans. "We're working with a company right now that can identify 30 diseases with an AI algorithm by scanning the back of your eye."
"These technologies have transformative power, not just in emerging markets but actually all over the world," he added.
Larsen explained that the objective of the fund is to make investments that give Ping An strategic access to technologies that can create value for the company. The investment opportunities that interest him are less about "putting lots and lots of capital to build up a user base," and more about an "asset-light model where (Ping An) can be a technology enabler."
The idea, Larsen said, is to make the technologies behind Ping An's facial and voice recognition, digital lending, credit scoring and fraud scoring available to other companies around the world.
Last month, the fund invested in an Israel-based start-up, MeMed Diagnostics, that is trying to prevent the misuse of antibiotics. Its previous investments include a U.S. and Israel-based health care start-up called TytoCare and a London-based fintech company called 10X Future Technologies.