Ant Group’s Yin Ming resigns amid regulatory scrutiny
An established industry veteran, Ming was the primary creator of the company’s ‘Xianghubao’ mutual aid insurance programme, which generated 52 billion yuan in premium income between June 2019 and June 2020.
For much of 2020, Ant Group’s surging dominance of the Chinese insurance market seemed indomitable: it was the country’s largest online insurer and held a 13% market share. Its modus operandi is to create affordable and flexible solutions for historically underserved markets, thus demonstrating insurtech’s powerful utility in modern finance.
The summit of its achievements so far was set to be encapsulated in a US$34bn IPO announced in late October 2020. This would have broken records as the largest in history, however in the first week of November.
Difficulties in the regulatory environment
The fast-paced evolution of modern fintech makes a thorough grasp of regulatory compliance imperative. This fact was made abundantly clear when the Shanghai stock exchange issued a statement explaining the reasons for Ant Group’s IPO suspension:
“Your company has also reported significant issues such as the changes in financial technology regulatory environment. These issues may result in your company not meeting the conditions for listing or meeting the information disclosure requirements.”
It appears that the Chinese government’s efforts to quell Big Tech monopolies (particularly with regard to Ant Group and Tencent) are in full force. published last week indicated that any company with more than a 10% market share would be considered subject for review.
Despite losing a significant figure in the company’s insurance operations, Ant Group only offered limited details regarding Ming’s departure:
“[Yin] has been a great colleague of ours for the past five years. We strived hard and overcame challenges together, and we appreciate his contributions to the company. We wish him the best of luck in the future.”
Scheduled to be replaced by Shao Wenlan, VP, the future of Ant Group remains uncertain. As the story continues to develop, it is already apparent that the company is becoming a significant case study in the evolution of fintech’s regulation.
FCA bans ‘price walking’ for insurers from Jan 2022
Insurers will no longer be allowed to raise premiums upon annual customer renewals following a new ruling by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)
The new move, which comes into effect in January 2022, will directly affect people renewing their home or motor insurance because they will pay no more for their premiums than a new customer.
The FCA said the change will save loyal customers an estimated £4.2bn over a 10-year-period. However, it also admitted the move could mean cheaper deals for new customers can no longer be sustainable for insurers attempting to attract business.
Price walking practices ended
According to reports, the FCA has been working on changing the rules on ‘price walking’ as it is termed, because customers are charged more their annual premiums, even though their level of risk remains the same. The system has resulted in complaints from consumer groups that loyal customers pay more unnecessarily.
"These measures will put an end to the very high prices paid by many loyal customers. Consumers can still benefit from shopping around or negotiating with their current provider, but won't be charged more at renewal just for being an existing customer."
Victory for the customer
Consumer groups have hailed the change as a victory for customers who have ended up paying higher premiums unnecessarily, but admitted it presented huge implications for insurers in the short term.
Consumer Intelligence CEO, Ian Hughes said, “These changes represent a tsunami for both insurers and their customers, but we should be in no doubt that the fault line that sits underneath this is fair value, mentioned 153 times in the final statement. GIPP changes will feel like just a ripple for those who don’t offer fair value to customers."
He continued, “This is going to be a bumpy ride for insurance brands and consumers alike in the short term. Today, the FCA has revealed that cash and cash-equivalent incentives, other than toys and carbon off setting, cannot be used to entice new customers without being offered to renewing customers. This means the savviest consumers who shop around each year will see prices rise and discounts and offers disappear.
“However, there is an opportunity for the industry to take advantage of all this change that is coming and do something that will be good for brands, good for the industry and good for consumers."
Consumer Intelligence PR and communications manager, Catherine Carey agreed, and described the victory as “a shot in the arm for innovation.”
Carey said the move “presses a giant reset button on the relationship between price and value, it will change the relationship between brands and consumers.”
She explained, “We expect to see insurers changing their models and new firms entering the market for the first time as loss-making year one pricing phases out. If you look at these new rules, and specifically the introduction of fair value, it’s the most exciting time for the development of the general insurance market for decades.”
Hughes also warned against insurers resisting the regulatory change, “Those that don’t take advantage of the opportunity are going to find it really tough.”
He added, “The tipping point we find ourselves at today is a critical point in the journey of this industry and there is an opportunity to be positive.”