DBS head joins a tech giant that keeps poaching from the finance sector

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Calvin Ng, head of digital, innovation and payment for DBS in Hong Kong, has left the bank after 11 years to join the global technology wing of China’s largest online insurance firm.

Ng is now a ‘founding member’ of ZhongAn Technologies International Group, the Hong Kong-based offshore affiliate of ZhongAn Technology, the tech subsidiary of mainland giant ZhongAn Online Property and Casualty Insurance, whose $1.5bn Hong Kong listing last September was more than 391 times oversubscribed.

ZhongAn’s international tech arm was established in December 2017 and has been staffing up with new digital hires since then, many of whom have come from large non-Chinese financial services firms in Hong Kong. Alongside Ng, other founding members include Ken Lo, HSBC’s former Asia Pacific head of partnerships for global digital, who joined in June, according to his public profile. ZhongAn International has also recruited senior managers from Aviva and AIA.

Part of ZhongAn International’s attraction to candidates from traditional finance firms is that it’s now more of a tech company than an insurer, say recruiters. While its parent ZhongAn Online does sell insurance directly to mainland consumers, ZhongAn International is developing fintech products – using blockchain, data modelling and cloud computing – that it hopes to sell to insurance companies outside of China, particularly in Asia.

ZhongAn’s recruitment from the mainstream finance sector follows in the footsteps of larger Chinese tech companies such as Tencent, Alibaba and JD.com. These firms are often able to offer higher salaries, speedier hiring processes, better technology and flatter hierarchies than banks, according to several tech recruiters we spoke with in Hong Kong recently.

Shanghai-headquartered ZhongAn Online was only established in 2013, but its brand already carries some clout in the Hong Kong and mainland job markets. This is partly because it is China’s first and now largest internet-only insurer and its original investors include both Tencent and Alibaba.

In 2016, the company set up ZhongAn Technology (of which Ng’s international unit is a part) to transform itself into an ‘insurtech’ firm by charging rivals to use its innovations in areas such as automatic claim settlements. ZhongAn has about 3,000 employees, more than 50% of whom work in technology.

After a brief stint working in marketing at Standard Chartered, Ng joined DBS in 2007 and became head of ebusiness for the bank in Hong Kong in 2015, according to his public profile. He took on his most recent role only in May this year and was leading a team of more than 30 people before he moved to ZhongAn.

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Image credit: vchal, Getty

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