Hong Kong’s first digital insurer Bowtie raises $30m

Sun Life Financial, the Canadian insurance company, has led a $30m Series A funding round in digital insurance start-up , the first “virtual” insurer to receive a licence from Kong’s Insurance Authority.

Bowtie, which is also backed by Sequoia Capital’s managing partner Neil Shen through his Hong Kong X Technology Fund, is planning to offer life and health insurance products directly to consumers online, rather than through intermediaries.

The start-up is hoping to capitalise on a push by Hong Kong’s insurance regulator to improve accessibility to protection products.

Michael Chan, co-founder of Bowtie, said consumers were keen to apply for health insurance and submit claims online, but the industry had “not fully embraced digital technology”.

Fabien Jeudy, chief executive of Sun Life Hong Kong, said: “There’s a huge insurance gap when it comes to life and health protection in Hong Kong. People are under-insured.”

He added that the investment was part of Sun Life’s “digital transformation strategy”, but said he still believed in the “old fashioned” advisory model, with insurance agents and brokers.

Hong Kong’s Insurance Authority said it had granted Bowtie a licence under its “fast track” scheme, marking “a significant milestone of insurtech development in Hong Kong”.

“We are aware that many insurers are stepping up their pace of adopting insurtech, with a view to enriching their product mix and tapping into the younger and tech-savvy generation,” said Clement Cheung, chief executive of the IA.

The insurance industry has come under criticism globally for its relatively slow pace of digital change, especially as consumers are increasingly searching for more efficient, lower cost services.

Almost three-quarters of global insurers said the industry had failed to show leadership in digital innovation, according to a survey last year by consultancy firm Willis Towers Watson.

According to a separate recent survey by EY, more than 80 per cent of insurance customers worldwide were willing to use digital channels, such as mobile apps, in place of interacting with insurance agents and brokers.

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