Podcasts

Ping An’s Jon-Tzen Ng: ‘We look at progress in a matter of days and weeks’

  • Chinese fintech, Ping An has found a way to systematize innovation.
  • Chief technology and innovation officer, Jon-Tzen Ng joins us to describe how his firm continues to push the edge.
close

Email a Friend

In the U.S., when we think about innovation, financial firms don’t generally grace a top 10 list of innovative firms. Not so in China. There, the financial technology firms are regarded as some of the most creative and aggressive firms around, stealing talent from all the top Internet players like Google and Facebook.

Our guest for this week’s Tearsheet Podcast is Jon-Tzen Ng, chief strategy & innovation officer at Ping An Technology, the technology and incubation arm of Ping An. Ping An is a 30 year old, Fortune 100 financial services holding company for the group’s insurance and banking properties, which include online lender, Lufax.

We hear about Ng’s path to running innovation and we move quickly into understanding the Chinese model for innovation — most importantly, we delve into how a company that does over $100 billion in revenue can measure its progress in days and weeks. Ping An has systematized innovation through R&D, incubation, and a new experience design center.

SubscribeiTunes I SoundCloud

Below are highlights, edited for clarity, from the episode.

Jon-Tzen Ng began his career at Standard Charter Bank. He was always passionate about technology and in 2007, many banks were looking hard at mobile. A mentor encouraged him to explore fintech more deeply and he was eventually offered a role to create a digital banking team from scratch in China. The country’s economy itself was undergoing a lot of changes at the time — in 2010, companies like Alibaba, Tencent, and Weibo were really starting to take off.

“The challenge for me was that being at an international bank in China limited some of the things I could try,” he explained. Ng jumped at the opportunity to join Ping An in 2016.

Innovation seems to be in the DNA of Chinese financial firms. Ping An sounds more like a Silicon Valley startup than a 30 year old company doing $100 billion in revenue. In his annual letter to shareholders, Amazon’s founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos described a framework of Day 1 and Day 2 companies. Day 1 organizations function with high-intensity, make decisions quickly, and focus on results and not process. Day 2 firms stagnate. “Every day is a Day 1 at Ping An,” said Ng. Ping An doesn’t compare itself to other banks. Instead, it looks to other innovators — firms like Ant Financial, Alibaba and Tencent — to set a baseline of innovation.

Ng lists three things that differentiate Chinese financial services from its competitors in the West. First, speed is crucial in China, where a lot of plans and execution get compressed into short time frames. Rarely do Chinese teams plan for years out — instead, most plans are set on daily, weekly, and monthly timelines. Second, Chinese scale is unique. “If you launch an app and it has five or six million users in China, we would tend to shut it down,” he said. This breeds a lot of competition and copycats out there, looking to do what you do faster and cheaper. “If you want to compete and stay relevant, you have to move at warp speed,” Ng admitted. Lastly, work ethic is a driver of Chinese innovation. It’s not just at the company level, either. With 1.5 billion people in China, everyone is competing with everyone when it comes to competing at scale.

Ping An employs an incubation model to innovate. Incubation generally starts with the chairman, whose vision steers the thinking around a new product or service. A handful of teams from across Ping An’s companies will compete to undertake the development of the new project. This process is then carried forward as the project grows into its own fledgling company. Lufax, a marketplace lender with a multi-billion dollar valuation, began as an internal project at Ping An in 2011.

Ping An doesn’t have a specific group responsible for innovation. It has a cohort of teams and people that sit across the organization that look to drive the company forward. The innovation mindset begins at the top of the company with its chairman and founder, Peter Ma. Ng describes Ma as a visionary in identifying Chinese trends and driving direction for the firm. Ma encourages internal competition, driving urgency within the organization. For Ma, financial services are just underlying needs to primary needs. For example, people want to buy homes — that’s a primary need. The underlying need is that they’ll need a mortgage to finance their purchase.

In the four categories Ping An competes in — finance, health, auto and property — Ping An wants to engage with its customers’ primary needs, before they require financial services, which happens later on in the customer journey. This strategy has succeeded in building an ecosystem of 376 million users of which 137 million customers have purchased one or more financial products from Ping An.

“We are always on the lookout for opportunities inside and outside China,” Ng said. “It’s all about serving our customers’ primary needs. As long as we can help an individual understand themselves better, it will be quite natural that they will have a financial need we can serve. That’s where the opportunities are.”

 

0 comments on “Ping An’s Jon-Tzen Ng: ‘We look at progress in a matter of days and weeks’”

Podcasts

“It is so expensive to get those 10 first bank customers’: JAM FINTOP’s new fund has 66 community bank LPs

  • There's a lot of money flowing into fintech from a lot of different sources.
  • A new fund, built in partnership between a fintech investor and bank investor, brings capital from community banks to tech firms.
Zachary Miller | May 11, 2021
Podcasts

‘No one ever said, I can’t wait to go banking today’: Bank of America’s Hari Gopalkrishnan

  • As needs changed during the pandemic, Bank of America customers turned to Erica, its virtual financial assistant, to get help.
  • Bank of America customers are also using more P2P payments, too -- Zelle usage at the bank is up 73%.
Zachary Miller | May 07, 2021
Podcasts

Jack Henry’s Tede Forman on the connection between the gig economy and real time payments

  • Faster payments are coming to smaller banks and credit unions.
  • Jack Henry's PayCenter is helping some of them compete with the bigger banks.
Zachary Miller | April 30, 2021
Podcasts

‘We’re increasingly focused on connecting banks, businesses and innovative partners in a collaborative ecosystem’: Bottomline’s Norm DeLuca

  • Historically, banks have not found a good model to service small businesses.
  • Bottomline's GM of digital banking solution joins the podcast to talk about creating technology ecosystems around banks for SMBs.
Zachary Miller | April 14, 2021
Finance Everywhere, Member Exclusive, Podcasts

‘It’s a no brainer to add a virtual card into the travel product’: TripActions’ Michael Sindicich

  • TripActions serves the Fortune 500 with modern travel and expense management.
  • Tearsheet caught up with the GM of Liquid, the firm's payment product.
Zachary Miller | April 07, 2021
More Articles