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    中國最大的民營企業:把未來托付給數據

    中國平安圍繞安全和壽險等穩健產品,打造了一個商業帝國。如今,該公司正在押注大數據創新使用的未來,而且也在厲兵秣馬,準備與阿里巴巴這類快速增長的科技巨頭正面交鋒。

    平安在深圳的總部大樓。它是中國第一家銷售車險、壽險和醫療險的企業,而它的“先行者”優勢也幫助其發展成為了一家商業巨頭。圖片來源:Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

    輕微交通事故,即便是小小的剮蹭,在過去也會引發中國司機之間無止盡的口角。當事人可能需要在路邊花數個小時等待保險查勘人員的到來,然后再花數個小時填寫表格。需要耗費數天或通常數周的時間才能夠得到賠償。

    2017年,平安這家中國第二大險企和中國營收最高的非國有公司,推出了“極速現場查勘”系統。投保人只需要打開智能手機的應用程序,回答幾個問題,然后便可以提交索賠。但該應用程序最妙的功能在于,當事人可以無需等待查勘員的到來。客戶可以對受損車輛拍照,并將其發送至平安公司的服務器,后者可以在三分鐘或更短的時間內計算出修理估價。如果客戶能夠接受估價,系統顯示這個過程“完成”,平安可以立即轉賬給客戶。

    去年,平安客戶使用這一功能解決了730萬件理賠,占總理賠數的62%。這一服務通過減少虛假理賠以及人工疏漏,每年為公司節省了超過7.5億美元的費用。但其易用性完全得益于該功能背后高度復雜的人工智能和數據處理操作。

    為了生成精準的預估,平安會將車輛照片與數據庫中在中國出售的6萬個不同汽車類別和車型的2500萬個部件進行比對。系統會評估這些部件是否可以修理或必須更換,然后計算超過14萬個車庫的部件和人工成本。平安將這些信息與面部、語音和圖像識別科技以及復雜的反欺詐規則矩陣進行整合。平安的首席科學家肖京稱,為了設計、開發和整合這項新服務,一個由人工智能專家、數據科學家和保險經理組成的團隊花費了三年的時間。他興高采烈地說道,它在“全球范圍內屬于首創。”

    平安正在使用人工智能和大數據等技術改變了中國人的日常生活,而自動化的汽車查勘只是其奇妙用途的冰山一角而已。這家總部位于深圳的公司還將面部識別技術用于消費借貸業務;平安稱其人工智能技術可以通過識別54種不同的“微表情”,來決定貸款申請人是否在撒謊。以平安醫保科技為例,也就是人們熟知的“好醫生”,它為2.65億通過移動應用程序注冊的病患提供咨詢服務,并協助醫師診斷數千種疾病。在過去五年中,平安還打造了其自有的云服務,并設計了一整套與之配套的人工智能驅動型軟件服務,它不僅可以支持其自身的工作,同時還能夠向數千家規模較小的金融機構、醫院和醫療客戶推銷數千種服務。

    這些產品和服務都擁有一個重要的功能:他們會將由中國的數字原生消費群體生成的在線數據與保險行業30多年來集聚的大量 “離線”存儲數據以及洞見進行配對。平安認為,這些離線信息——其中包括像商業貸款違約率、皮膚癌的癥狀和配備彈簧減震系統車輛的再銷售價值這類不相干的元素——意味著其數據服務有更好的數據作為支撐。負責平安科技公司的副首席執行官陳心穎說:“我們的優勢在這里得到了體現,我們能夠與整個行業進行連接。”

    這類連接對于平安雷厲風行的創始人及首席執行官馬明哲的愿景來說至關重要。馬明哲圍繞一系列壽險、醫療和財險產品,打造了一個龐然大物。平安的保險業務如今擁有1.84億名客戶,也是公司2018年1640億美元營收的主要來源。隨著中國經濟走向成熟,這些穩定行業的增長也在放緩。但它們帶來了平安打造其科技武器所需的大量現金流和數據。平安的領導層預測,公司科技業務在未來的貢獻將占到其營收的半壁江山,而當前僅有6%。同時,公司還將有能力與阿里巴巴、騰訊這類的純科技競爭對手一爭高下。

    FENDER BENDERS, even minor ones, used to mean interminable hassle for Chinese drivers. One could wait hours by the roadside for an insurance inspector then lose hours more filling out forms. Reimbursement took days, and often weeks.

    In 2017, Ping An, China’s second-largest insurer and its biggest non-state-owned company by revenue, rolled out a “Superfast Onsite Investigation” system enabling policyholders to submit claims by simply opening a smartphone app and answering a few questions. But the app’s niftiest feature offers the option to not even wait for an inspector. Instead, customers can snap photos of a damaged vehicle and send them to a Ping An computer, which can respond with a repair estimate in three minutes or less. If the customer accepts the estimate, then wan-cheng (success) Ping An can transfer funds immediately.

    Last year, Ping An’s customers used this feature to settle 7.3 million claims, or 62% of the total. The service saves the company more than $750 million each year by reducing bogus claims and human error. But its simplicity belies the extraordinary sophistication of the artificial intelligence and data processing operations that make it possible.

    To generate accurate estimates, Ping An matches photos of vehicle damage against a database of 25 million parts used in the 60,000 different auto makes and models sold in China. The system assesses whether those parts can be repaired or must be replaced, then calculates the cost of parts and labor in more than 140,000 garages. Ping An integrates all that information with face-, voice- and image-recognition tech and a complex matrix of anti-fraud rules. Ping An chief scientist Xiao Jing says it took a team of A.I. experts, data scientists, and insurance managers three years to design, develop, and integrate the new service. It is, he exults, “the only one of its kind in the world.”

    But automated auto inspection is only one of myriad marvels that illustrate how Ping An is using A.I. and big data to transform everyday life in China. There’s also the facial- recognition technology the Shenzhen-based conglomerate uses in its consumer lending business; Ping An claims its A.I. can read 54 distinct “micro-expressions” to determine whether loan applicants are lying. Or take Ping An Healthcare and Technology, better known as Good Doctor, which off ers consultations to 265 million patients registered via a mobile app—and aids physicians in diagnosing thousands of ailments. Over the past five years, Ping An has also built its own cloud and designed a suite of A.I.-driven software services to go with it—not just to support its own work but also to market services to thousands of smaller fi nancial institutions, hospitals, and medical clients.

    These products and services have a vital feature in common: They match online data, generated by China’s digitally native consumer masses, with a vast storehouse of “offline” data and insight amassed over three decades in the insurance business. Ping An believes that this offline information—which encompasses elements as disparate as business-loan default rates, symptoms of skin cancer, and the resale value of a car with sprung shocks—means that its data services are based on better data. “That’s where our advantage comes in,” says Jessica Tan, the deputy CEO who oversees Ping An’s technology companies. “We’re able to connect to the full picture.”

    Such connection is central to the vision of Ping An’s hard charging founder and CEO, Peter Ma. Ma built a massive business around an array of life, health, and property and casualty insurance. Ping An’s insurance arm now reaches 184 million customers and accounted for the bulk of the company’s $164 billion in revenue in 2018. Growth in those relatively staid industries is slowing as China’s economy matures. But they are generating the massive flows of cash and data Ping An needs to build its tech arsenal. Ping An’s leadership foresees the day when the company’s technology businesses contribute as much as half of its earnings, up from only 6% today, and compete head-to-head with pure technology plays like Alibaba Group and Tencent Holdings.

    平安的人工智能和數據科學催生了交通事故理賠服務這類產品。圖片來源:Courtesy of Ping An

    平安好醫生為中國農村人口提供醫療服務。

    金融服務巨頭公司很少成為創新方面的領頭羊。平安自身的公司名便有“和平、安全”之意,讓人想起熱牛奶和充足的睡眠。然而平安已經醞釀了一大批專屬技術,用于支持集團的五大“生態系統”,即金融、醫療、汽車、房地產和智慧城市。與此同時,在線金融和醫療服務(一些通過自有品牌銷售,一些則授權給第三方)如今擁有5.65億多名注冊用戶。

    平安將營收的1%用于創新投資。在過去10年中,該集團已經在研發領域投入了70多億美元,而且馬明哲曾經承諾在未來10年將追加投資150億美元。這筆資金滋養了11家科技附屬公司,其中兩家——“好醫生”和汽車買家平臺“汽車之家”——已經上市,也催生了多個估值達數十億美元的私營“獨角獸”。到目前為止,這5家企業中僅有兩家盈利。即便如此,集團科技企業的合并估值達到了700億美元。

    香港Schulte Research的首席執行官保羅·舒爾特是金融公司如何運用科技方面的專家。他說,平安“從一開始”就意識到了人工智能和數據分析的重要性。他指出,盡管其他中國公司是在新工具面前依然渾渾噩噩,但平安“超級清醒而且在不斷地推進”。如今,這個推力正在變得越來越強大。

    Giant financial services companies rarely double as disruptive innovators. Ping An’s very name, which means “peace and safety,” evokes warm milk and an early bedtime. Yet Ping An has already spawned a menagerie of proprietary technologies that support the group’s five key “ecosystems”: finance, health care, autos, real estate, and smart cities. Meanwhile, its online fi nancial and health care services, some sold under its own brand and some licensed to others, now boast more than 565 million registered users.

    Ping An earmarks 1% of revenue for investments in innovation. Over the past 10 years, the group has plowed more than $7 billion into research and development, and Ma has vowed to invest $15 billion more in the decade to come. That endowment has nurtured 11 technology affiliates, of which two—Good Doctor and Auto home, a platform for car buyers—are publicly traded and three are privately held “unicorns” with multibillion-dollar valuations For now, only two of those fi ve are profi table. Even so, the combined value of the group’s tech ventures tops $70 billion.

    Paul Schulte, CEO of Hong Kong–based Schulte Research and an expert on how financial companies use technology, says that Ping An grasped the importance of A.I. and data analysis “from the beginning.” While other big Chinese companies seemed to sleepwalk past the new tools, he says, Ping An was “hyper awake and constantly pushing.” These days, that push is only growing more forceful.

    ****

    平安大廈是中國第二高的摩天大樓,是深圳天際線的主要建筑之一,位于福田金融區,共有118層。從其較高的樓層,高管們的視線可以在越過不多的建筑之后抵達一座小山,山頂建有鄧小平的雕像。這位領導人在毛澤東去世后讓中國走出了封閉和僵硬的計劃經濟控制。負責平安集團保險業務的李源祥開玩笑說,自己天天都在向雕像鞠躬,為的是感謝鄧小平讓中國的經濟和平安走上了快速發展之路。平安于1988年成立,當時還是國有航運企業中國招商局集團低層官員的馬哲明說服了高層,讓他成立了財險部門。那時,保險公司的概念對于中國來說還十分陌生,但中國招商局集團總部位于深圳特區。在這里,政府不僅允許開展經濟實驗,并對此持鼓勵態度。平安隨后進軍壽險和醫療險業務,獲得了這些市場領域的“先行者”優勢,也正是這個期間,數百萬中國民眾第一次成為了富足的中產階級,也推高了對保險的需求;公司最終設立了盈利的零售銀行。

    從20世紀90年代開始,平安便利用不斷深化的改革環境,成為了中國首家外國公司參股的金融機構:高盛和摩根士丹利是早期的入股者。公司最終于2004年在香港上市。(當前股東包括由泰國正大集團控股的三家公司,在去年年底共計持股9.19%,正大集團執行董事長之子謝展在2018年12月收購了《財富》雜志。)

    PING AN TOWER, the second-tallest skyscraper in China, dominates Shenzhen’s skyline, looming 118 stories over the Futian fi nancial district. From its upper floors, executives can gaze over lesser buildings to a hill upon which stands a statue of Deng Xiaoping, the leader who steered China out of isolation and rigid centralized economic control after the death of Mao Zedong. Lee Yuansiong, the deputy CEO who heads Ping An’s insurance group, jokes that he bows to the statue every day—thanking Deng for setting China’s economy, and his employer, on the path to rapid growth. Ping An got its start in 1988 when Ma, then a junior official at state-owned shipping company China Merchants Group, persuaded superiors to let him set up a property and casualty insurance unit. The concept of an insurance company was unfamiliar in China, but China Merchants was headquartered in Shenzhen, a special economic zone, where economic experimentation was not only tolerated but encouraged. Ping An later branched into life and health insurance, enjoying “first mover” status in those markets just as millions of Chinese people attained middle-class prosperity for the fi rst time, driving demand; it eventually rolled out a profi table retail bank.

    Beginning in the 1990s, Ping An took advantage of widening reforms to become the first Chinese financial institution in which foreign firms could own equity: Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley were early backers. The company eventually went public in 2004, listing in Hong Kong. (Current shareholders include three companies controlled by Thailand’s CP Group, which together held a stake of 9.19% at the end of last year. Chatchaval Jiaravanon, son of the executive chairman of CP Group, has owned Fortune since December 2018.)

    平安保險集團負責人李源祥。圖片來源:Photograph by Theodore Kaye for Fortune

    即便其客戶群和營收出現了飆升,平安公司也犯過錯誤。通過收購進行擴張的舉措尤為不幸。2008年,平安購買了布魯塞爾金融巨頭富通 50%的股權,但旋即富通便走向了破產。2010年,公司收購了陷入困境的商業借貸銀行深發展銀行,但收購之后便鮮有起色。

    在應對這些挑戰之際,馬明哲對騰訊和阿里巴巴的崛起感嘆不已。這些公司迅速地將電子商務和移動支付數據轉變為成功的產品,這也暗示了平安自身深厚的數據池所擁有的潛力。(馬哲明與阿里巴巴創始人馬云、騰訊創始人馬化騰同姓,但這三位之間沒有任何血緣關系。)公司的首席創新官羅中恒說,馬明哲的愿景在于,平安要發展成為一家融合性的公司,既要有穩健金融公司的優點,又要結合靈活科技公司的特長,并通過創新和嘗試幫助保持這個大塊頭的穩步增長。

    為了實施這一愿景,馬明哲將目光投向了公司自身高管之外以及海外的人才市場。陳心穎于2013年加入平安,她成長于新加坡,并在麻省理工學院拿到了電器工程和計算機科學學位。她在咨詢公司麥肯錫工作了13年,后者是平安的客戶之一。她為平安開展的首個項目也成就了她的首次中國大陸之旅。她笑著說:“我記得當時與辦公室經理發生了爭吵。我真的不想去。”這項任務最后變成了一項18個月的奇幻歷程,期間,她幫助開發了一個首要的行政園區。她當前的職務讓她經常旅行于三點之間,也就是深圳、平安在上海32英畝的科技中心以及回新加坡探親。

    保險集團負責人李源祥也來自于新加坡。澳大利亞人羅中恒在花旗銀行擔任了多個高管職務,包括全球零售銀行負責人,他于2017年加入平安。首席科學家肖晶是中國人,他在硅谷精工愛普生和微軟干了一段之間之后于2013年加入了平安。肖晶說,在平安這家有著豐富數據資源的公司工作就像是發現了“珍寶島”一樣。

    Even as its customer base and revenue soared, Ping An made missteps. Eff orts to expand through acquisition were particularly ill-fated. In 2008, Ping An bought a 50% stake in Brussels-based financial conglomerate Fortis, just before that company collapsed. The 2010 acquisition of Shenzhen Development Bank, a troubled commercial lender, has been slow to bear fruit.、

    As he grappled with those challenges, Ma marveled at the rise of Tencent and Alibaba. The rapidity with which those companies parlayed data on e-commerce and mobile payments into successful products hinted at the power inherent in Ping An’s own deep data pool. (Peter Ma shares the same surname as Alibaba cofounder Jack Ma and Tencent founder Huateng “Pony” Ma, but the three are not related.) Ma’s vision, says Jonathan Larsen, the company’s chief innovation officer, was that Ping An could combine the best of a stable finance company and a nimble tech fi rm—innovating and experimenting to help keep a big company growing at a steady pace.

    To implement that vision, Ma has reached outside the company’s ranks and outside China itself. Jessica Tan, who joined in 2013, grew up in Singapore and earned degrees in electrical engineering and computer science from MIT. She spent 13 years at consultancy McKinsey & Co., where Ping An was a client. Her first project for Ping An also marked her fi rst trip to mainland China. “I remember arguing with my office manager,” she says, laughing. “I really didn’t want to go.” That assignment turned into an 18-month odyssey in which Tan helped develop a major administrative campus. Her current role puts her in constant orbit between headquarters in Shenzhen, Ping An’s 32-acre tech center outside Shanghai, and Singapore to see her family.

    Lee, the insurance group head, also hails from Singapore. Larsen, an Australian, held a variety of top roles at Citibank, including head of global retail banking, before joining Ping An in 2017. And Xiao, the chief scientist, is a Chinese native who joined in 2013 after stints in Silicon Valley at Seiko Epson and Microsoft. Starting at a company with a data trove the size of Ping An’s, Xiao says, was like discovering “Treasure Island.”

    ****

    將平安的數據能力與阿里巴巴和騰訊進行比較是一個十分棘手的命題,因為各家公司有著迥異的業務領域。作為阿里巴巴的主要零售市場,淘寶擁有6.66億月活躍用戶,而其移動支付平臺支付寶擁有超過10億名用戶。騰訊的微信平臺擁有超過10億的活躍用戶,他們平均每天產生450億條信息。舒爾特估計,BAT(中國的百度、阿里巴巴和騰訊)每天合計處理的數據是平安成立以來所處理數據總量的10倍。

    但平安的高管認為,質量比數量更重要。他們稱其業務收集到的數據比BAT的更加豐富,因為它涉及與健康、理財和財產有關的大額交易,這些都涉及客戶生活中最有意義的決策。

    COMPARING PING AN’S data capabilities with those of Alibaba and Tencent is a tricky proposition, given the radically diff erent scales at which they operate. Taobao, Alibaba’s main retail marketplace, has 666 million monthly active users, while Alipay, its mobile payments platform, boasts more than a billion. Tencent’s WeChat platform draws more than a billion active users who generate an average of 45 billion messages—every day. Schulte estimates that the BAT (China’s troika of Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent) processes at least 10 times as much data every day as Ping An has acquired in its entire existence.

    But Ping An executives argue that quality matters more than quantity. The data its businesses collect is richer than that gleaned by the BAT, they claim, because it involves big ticket transactions relating to health, wealth, and property— among the most meaningful decisions in customers’ lives.

    平安集團副首席執行官陳心穎,負責平安科技公司。圖片來源:Photograph by Eric Rechsteiner for Fortune

    作為這方面的案例,陳心穎提到了汽車之家。當平安2016年從紐約上市公司澳大利亞電信巨頭澳洲電信手中收購該網站的控股權時,汽車之家看起來是一家十分有希望的公司,但有待實際檢驗。在平安收購之后,該網站鞏固了其作為中國最大在線汽車銷售平臺的地位,同時開始逐漸盈利。陳心穎認為平臺之所以出現轉機,原因在于汽車之家使用了平安數十年積累的與電子商務無關的數據,例如上千萬條有關汽車貸款和汽車保險理賠的數據。同樣重要的是,平安說服了1.4萬家汽車經銷商使用汽車之家進行銷售管理,這樣便生成了有關消費喜好的實時情報。所有這些信息讓汽車之家能夠更加精準地定位目標客戶,并為他們提供融資服務。陳心穎指出,“如果平安只是做純險企,而且只盯著這塊業務不放”,這一點就無從說起了。

    與經銷商的合作為平安數據擴張指明了一條道路。通過向其他公司授權大數據技術,這家險企打造了一個良性循環,期間,平安通過合作關系收集了更多的數據,從而讓公司能夠改善其運營模式,并借此吸引更多的客戶。如今,已經有22家汽車險企使用“極速”事故理賠平臺。約460家中國銀行和超過1800家中小金融服務公司使用平安的一賬通金融平臺。平安的專屬云服務能夠讓公司以相對較小的成本擴展這些產品,從而幫助這個生態圈更快地發展壯大。

    As a case in point, Jessica Tan cites Autohome. When Ping An acquired a controlling stake in the New York–listed company from Telstra, the Australian telecom giant, in 2016, Auto home was seen as promising but unproven. Under Ping An, it has consolidated its position as China’s largest online auto sales platform while swinging to profitability. Tan attributes the turnaround to the fi rm’s ability to tap into decades of Ping An data unrelated to e-commerce—millions of records about auto loans and car-insurance claims, for example. Just as important, Ping An persuaded some 14,000 auto dealers to use Auto home for sales management—generating real-time intelligence about consumer tastes. All of this information enables Auto home to target customers more precisely and off er them services like financing—and it wouldn’t have been possible, Tan says, “if I were just a pure insurer who sticks to my stuff.”

    Those dealer partnerships point to one key to Ping An’s data expansion. By licensing big-data tech to other companies, the insurance giant creates a virtuous circle in which Ping An collects still more data through the relationships, enabling it to improve its models and thereby attract more clients. There are now 22 auto insurers using the “Superfast” accident-claim platform. Some 460 Chinese banks and over 1,800 other small- and medium-size fi nancial-services fi rms use Ping An’s OneConnect fi nancial platform. And Ping An’s proprietary cloud lets the company scale up these off erings at relatively little expense, helping the circle grow bigger, faster.

    平安集團首席創新官羅中恒。圖片來源:Photograph by Xyza Cruz Bacani for Fortune
    ?

    平安以同樣的方式打造了備受歡迎的人工智能模型,用于評估消費信貸風險。阿里巴巴、騰訊和平安都已經獲得臨時牌照,用來提供信貸服務,但平安更受金融機構的青睞,攬獲了約200家銀行。盡管阿里巴巴和騰訊的模型依賴于對電子商務數據的分析,從而為其自有客戶提供消費型小額貸款,但這類貸款的價值很少超過數千元(約合幾百美元)。陳心穎指出,平安的模型能夠為“小企業主提供數十萬人民幣的完全無擔保貸款,這一點是沒有問題的,因為我們已經從事這項業務很多年了。”

    In the same vein, Ping An has built a popular A.I.-driven model for assessing consumer credit risk. Alibaba, Tencent, and Ping An have all been granted provisional licenses to off er credit-bureau services, but Ping An’s is the favorite of financial institutions; it’s being used by about 200 banks. While Alibaba’s and Tencent’s models rely on analysis of e-commerce data to underwrite small loans for purchases by their own customers, the value of such loans rarely exceeds a few thousand yuan—a few hundred dollars. Ping An’s model “can give a small business owner a loan for a few hundred thousand completely unsecured, no problem,” says Tan, “because we have been doing this for years.”

    ****

    為了支持其高屋建瓴的高科技策略,馬明哲組建了一支無與倫比的人才隊伍。平安雇傭了2.4萬多名軟件工程師、800名數據科學家和180名人工智能專家。公司稱已經提交了1.5萬多項技術專利申請。平安還控制著龐大的風投和私募股權基金,包括2017年設立的10億美元的專用基金——國際旅游者基金。管理該基金的羅中恒表示,這只基金專注于投資金融科技和醫療領域的早期初創企業,目的是為了捕獲平安還未開發的平臺或技術。

    平安被低估的股價經常遭到平安高管的詬病,他們認為將平安完全看作一家險企會讓人忽略其作為科技公司的潛力。平安的股票市盈率約為12,與安盛和安聯相當,但遠低于阿里巴巴和騰訊,這兩家公司的市盈率分別為35和38。

    然而,一些指標正在朝著正確的方向邁進。公司稱,在過去兩年中,平安金融服務三分之一的新客戶已經成為了其互聯網業務的注冊用戶。這意味著科技公司正在幫助代理“交叉銷售”更多高利潤產品,例如,當人們使用汽車之家購買汽車時往往會在平安購買保險。

    該公司還將其科技資產組合視為抵御勞動力老齡化和經濟增速放緩的一種保障手段。隨著中國人口老齡化,羅中恒看到醫療領域存在巨大的機遇。他說:“中國人變得越發富足,而且受教育的程度也越來越高,他們也會對服務標準有著更高的期許。隨之而來的有慢性疾病——54%的男性吸煙,其中9%的長期吸煙者會患上肺癌——以及其他一系列與心臟病、缺乏運動、肥胖有關的病癥。”平安的HealthKonnect平臺旨在幫助中國政府控制這一正在逼近的疾病高發浪潮,后者負擔了中國55%的醫療成本。公司正在開發的多個功能可以幫助實現病例的數字化,分析醫療數據,支付醫療費用,并甄別醫療詐騙。

    平安搜集和分析此類私人數據的能力正在快速增長,也引發了復雜的隱私問題。面部識別和“微表情”分析如今已經成為使用平安云服務公司的標準功能。然而,如果銷售醫療保險的公司通過面部掃描就可以計算器體脂率,客戶會對此感到高興嗎?“好車主”(Good Driver)應用會時常傳回駕駛員去了哪,車速以及變道是否順暢等數據,但它正在日漸成為購買車險的一個強制下載軟件,這一舉措是否會引發消費者的反感呢?如果銷售這些保險的公司還知道投保者的職務、財富凈值以及病史,消費者又該作何感想?

    陳心穎表示,平安已經開發了復雜的機制來保護客戶數據的隱私,而且這些數據在用于建模時都已經進行了匿名化處理。然而,有關個人保險和貸款的決定當然不可能是匿名的。中國文化通常并不像西方文化那樣注重隱私;在現實當中,正是出于這一原因,平安自身的最大創新在現階段仍然可能只會專注于中國市場。馬明哲最近對《金融時報》說:“我們沒有進行海外收購的意愿。中國市場有著最好的增長前景。”

    平安在說服中國消費者買單方面遇到了一些小問題。它通過一個老派的銷售力量來幫助出售保險,也就是110萬銷售其保單和其他產品的獨立代理。自動化也為這支隊伍帶來了影響。羅中恒說:“他們基本上不會使用紙張。客戶關系管理、社交網絡管理都是自動化的。”然而,他們年復一年地為公司帶來了數十億美元的銷售額:事實證明,在中國這種新興國家,在吸引客戶方面最好用的應用莫過于真人。(財富中文網)

    本文另一版本登載于《財富》雜志2019年8月刊,標題為《平安的數據城堡》。

    譯者:馮豐

    審校:夏林

    TO SUPPORT his high-flying high-tech strategy, Ma has assembled a formidable talent pool. Ping An employs more than 24,000 software engineers, 800 data scientists, and 180 A.I. specialists. The company says it has fi led more than 15,000 technology patent applications. Ping An also controls a gaggle of venture and private equity funds, including the Global Voyager Fund, a $1 billion war chest launched in 2017. Larsen, who helms Voyager, says the fund focuses on early-stage ventures in fintech and health care—securing stakes in platforms or technologies Ping An has yet to develop itself.

    That the stock is undervalued is a constant lament of executives, who argue that viewing Ping An solely as an insurer misses the potential of its tech ventures. Ping An shares trade at a price-to-earnings ratio of about 12—on par with mature insurers such as AXA or Allianz but a far cry from Alibaba and Tencent, which trade at 35 and 38 times earnings, respectively.

    Still, some metrics are trending in the right direction. Over the past two years, a third of new customers for Ping An’s financial services have already been registered users of its Internet businesses, the company says. That suggests the tech ventures are helping agents “cross-sell” more lucrative products—for example, when people who use Autohome to buy a car wind up getting insurance from Ping An.

    The company also counts its technology portfolio as a hedge against a graying workforce and a slower economy. Larsen sees a huge opportunity in health care as China’s population ages. “You’ve got higher expectation of service standards from an increasingly affluent and educated population,” he says. “You have the onset of chronic diseases—54% of males smoke, 9% of long-term smokers get lung cancer—and a host of other conditions [related to] heart disease, lack of exercise, obesity.” Ping An’s HealthKonnect platform aims to help the Chinese government, which covers about 55% of the country’s health care costs, contain this looming wave. The company is working on features to help digitize medical records, analyze health data, pay bills, and spot fraud.

    Ping An’s burgeoning capacity to collect and analyze such intimate data raises complicated privacy issues. Facial recognition and “micro-expression” analysis are now standard features for companies using Ping An’s cloud. Should customers be pleased that a company that sells health insurance can calculate their body fat percentage with a face scan? Does it bother consumers that the Good Driver app—which constantly relays where they go, how fast they drive, and how smoothly they change lanes—is increasingly a mandatory download for someone buying auto insurance? And what if the company selling them that policy also knows their occupation, net worth, and health history?

    Tan says Ping An has developed elaborate systems to safeguard the privacy of client data, and that data is fully anonymized before being used in modeling. But decisions about insurance and loans for individuals, of course, are anything but anonymous. Chinese culture generally doesn’t place the same value on privacy that Western culture does; in practice, that makes it likely that Ping An’s biggest innovations will remain concentrated in China for now. “We don’t have aspirations to make acquisitions overseas,” Ma recently told the Financial Times. “The Chinese market has the best growth prospects.”

    Ping An is having little trouble persuading Chinese consumers to sign on. It’s doing so with the help of an old-school sales force—the 1.1 million independent agents who sell its policies and other products. Automation has affected this army too. “They basically never touch a piece of paper,” Larsen says. “Client relationship management, social network management—it’s all automated.” Still, they drive billions of dollars in sales, year after year: In emerging economies like China’s, it turns out, the killer app for wooing customers remains an actual human.

    A version of this article appears in the August 2019 issue of Fortune with the headline "Ping An's Castle Made of Data."

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