Ping An OneConnect unveils open platform for financial industry, the platform joins hands with Hong Kong Cyberport to promote fintech

SHENZHEN, China, June 3, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- OneConnect, an associate company of the Ping An Insurance (Group) Company of China, Ltd. ("Ping An Group"), officially unveiled the Gamma O open platform in Shenzhen on May 29. The platform, positioned as a "technology app store for financial institutions", is an intelligent open platform focused on the finance vertical and connecting financial institutions with technology service providers.

The Gamma O platform, attracting partners by virtue of its transparency, integrates technology, communities, e-commerce and incubation. With the partners contributing research and development, the platform connects financial institutions with technology providers, including developers, to provide one-stop solutions and a service platform for both sectors, build an intelligent and open fintech ecosystem, and empower the rise of open banks.

At the press conference, OneConnect signed collaboration agreements with Hong Kong Cyberport and Ping An Cloud Accelerator. Under the agreement, Hong Kong Cyberport will seamlessly connect with Gamma O, providing access to the platform's outstanding technical developer resources and connecting the platform to Chinese and international financial institutions, particularly in the Pearl River Delta. As the largest digital innovation community in Hong Kong, Cyberport has the largest fintech cluster in Hong Kong. It is committed to promoting the development of digital technology in Hong Kong, inspiring innovation, nurturing talents and fostering local start-ups. Cyberport also has a large network of international businesses and investors.

Ping An Cloud Accelerator was initiated by Ping An Group, and is supported by Shenzhen Futian District Government and world's leading accelerator and venture fund Sparklabs. It helps high-quality businesses with potential refine products, improve business models and expand their markets. After signing the contract, Gamma O will choose some outstanding businesses to incubate every year, giving them direct access to the Ping An Cloud Accelerator as well as to its rich resources and support.

So far, more than 500 technology developers and more than 300 banks have registered on the Gamma O platform.

The Gamma O open platform was built to bring together financial technology professionals of all backgrounds, who can provide innovative thinking, cutting-edge technologies and scene resources, with the goal of furnishing various financial institutions, including small and medium-sized banks, with one-click access to rich technology products and application scenarios, said Ye Wangchun, chairman and CEO of OneConnect. The platform connects to a large number of cutting-edge financial technology capabilities, responds to constantly changing technical and product requirements, and provides continuous technical momentum for banks seeking transformation.

As one of the first partners accessing Gamma O, Hong Kong Cyberport since its inception in 2004 has successfully established a diverse and vigorous innovation ecosystem, said Dr. George Lam, the firm's chairman. There are more than 1,300 technology companies and start-ups associated with the park, among which fintech businesses form an important segment. The fintech segment has become known as the "fintech stronghold in Hong Kong". Accessing Gamma O, an open platform, and partnering with OneConnect to build a larger network of businesses and resources, are expected to bring a growing number of cross-border support and development opportunities to more than 350 fintech companies at Cyberport.

Three core values enable the setting up of open banks across the entire process

2018 is being touted as the first year of "open banks". With the homogenization of banking products, banks are facing challenges in terms of traffic, products and customer service. Some banks that have begun to go global with the help of the Internet are starting to share data and establish scene integration between banks and non-bank financial institutions, as well as among cross-border businesses. Open banks are emerging at just the right moment.

Qiu Han, co-general manager of OneConnect, said that today more and more banks rely on technology upgrades to avoid losing relevance, by increasing investment in technology. However, for many small and medium-sized banks, making the tech upgrade is a major challenge, especially when it comes to adding an open bank to the mix. To put it more succinctly, the addition of open bank functionalities by small and medium-sized banks is seriously hobbled by the lack of technology, talent and investment.

According to the Research Report on the Financial Technology Development of Small and Medium-Sized Banks 2019, most small and medium-sized banks do not have a clear fintech strategy, neither in terms of innovation nor deployment, and are relatively weak when it comes to the mix of products and channels at the customer and marketing levels. Looking at the big picture, less than 5 percent of the banks surveyed have made data delivery via APIs available to external companies; technically, only 27 percent of small and medium-sized banks have put an IT front-end in place while only 20 percent have set aside a budget for technology or innovation incubators, creating a capability and reserve gap when looking at cutting-edge technologies, especially AI and big data.

Given the uneven quality of third-party technology service providers, many needs of the financial institutions cannot be met quickly. The risks of security and information leakage should not be neglected when setting up open banks.

Ms. Qiu said that OneConnect launched the Gamma O open platform following the completion of a study of the development of the industry, with the aim of creating a technology app store for financial institutions as well as a common ecosystem.

OneConnect chief development officer, Wang Xiaoyuan said that the Gamma O platform incorporates three core values that enable the setting up of open banks, creating a comprehensive technology service system across the entire process from demand customization, technology access to product testing.

  • The app store serves as a one-stop shop for quick access to extensive technology resources. Gamma O provides APIs to advanced technologies such as AI and big data from many technology service providers including OneConnect. By bringing together products, systems and customization requirements onto one platform, Gamma O makes available the technology development capabilities of excellent developers while ensuring security. Banks can flexibly access the interfaces, enabling the rapid deployment of their products.

The platform will analyze the requirements of financial institutions as soon as they are posted. For general requirements, banks can directly access and deploy the standard products and solutions on the platform, vastly reducing their labor and communication costs. For projects that require customization, financial institutions can design personalized and customized products and services by harnessing the advanced technology power of platform developers, greatly enhancing the efficiency of intelligent upgrades for banks across the entire process.

  • The store has established strict standards for admission, assuring the banks a safe and reliable technology service platform. Traditionally, the setting up of open banks needed to reconstruct the organizational structure, business process and product design, export financial services through APIs and connect with many parties. This requires the investment of a large amount of manpower in the early stage, as well as a need to interact with multiple suppliers. The process necessitated an intensive level of management of suppliers and the security of service providers including technology and application developers.

Based on Ping An's more than 30 years of financial experience, OneConnect, the sole vehicle at Ping An Group that exports financial technology, empowers financial institutions through a "technology plus business" model. As of the end of the first quarter of 2019, OneConnect had provided services to more than 3,300 financial institutions, including nearly 600 banks, over 70 insurers and 2,600 other non-banking financial institutions.

Leveraging its massive trading scale and application experience, OneConnect has developed a set of strict admission mechanism and selection criteria. This allowed Gamma O to utilize its own security specifications and licensing agreements to select corporate developers through layers of screening, eliminating concerns among the financial institutions concerning the security and continuity of service providers.

  • Gamma O provides a sandbox testing environment, paving the way for financial institutions to adopt innovative and high-tech products. In order to achieve rapid transformation in the era of fintech, traditional financial institutions not only need access to emerging technologies and practical scenarios, but also require access to an innovative environment. However, many traditional financial institutions lack a testing environment due to their limited technical ability and resource constraints, greatly reducing the capabilities in being able to bring the new products on board. In response to this pain point, the Gamma O platform provides a sandbox which creates a testing environment for the new products, enhancing the security and stability of those products, while promoting innovation in financial technology.

Four "openings" enhance the comprehensive ability of the developers to enable the creation of a network of open banks

Technology service providers in the fintech sector generally face the challenges brought about by the speed at which emerging technologies are evolving, due to the difficulty in providing comprehensive coverage, the long development cycle and the high cost of technology development, alongside such obstacles as unequal emerging technologies and business needs and a high access threshold in technology implementation, all of which are not conducive to the rapid iteration of financial technologies and the development of the industry.

Wang noted that in order to overcome these obstacles, Gamma O has provided "four major openings" to technology service providers, including access to a vast number of developers, via open technology, open customers, open capital and open scenarios, so that service providers can effortlessly share technological capabilities, shorten the development cycle and connect with the customer resources of financial institutions, better enabling the build out of open banks.

  • Open technology: by connecting to Gamma O, developers can immediately access cutting-edge API interfaces to artificial intelligence, big data and other technologies, as well as the development framework and infrastructure support of OneConnect, enhancing developers' own ability to undertake large-scale system development. At the same time, developers can also connect their own technological capabilities to the Gamma O platform to achieve real sharing and optimization of technological resources across the industry.
  • Open customers: the Gamma O platform opens up channels for collaboration between a large number of financial institutions and banks to technology service providers. China's domestic and foreign financial institutions and technology service providers can directly connect through the Gamma O platform to look for available opportunities.
  • Open capital: the Gamma O Platform selects 5-10 venture capital firms each year and matches them up with technology service providers based on the providers' credit ratings and their capabilities at project delivery. The above-mentioned projects, once underway, can also directly access the Ping An Cloud Accelerator to obtain comprehensive support and incubation from the capital to the resource side.
  • Open scenarios: OneConnect's service experience, products and technologies in banking, insurance, investment and other businesses typically associated with financial institutions include applying for a credit line, anti-fraud, risk management, marketing and intelligent assistant customer service, among other scenarios. Through the Gamma O platform, financial institutions can access and deploy technology and products more conveniently, while technology service providers can improve their understanding of the financial needs and achieve the rapid implementation of more financial technology products.

Through the above-mentioned "openings", Gamma O has attracted a large number of enterprise-level developers who have agreed to come on board, facilitating the creation of a huge developer ecosystem, which can continuously provide the latest technology and the most innovative products.

Dr. George Lam said that after many years of being in business, Hong Kong Cyberport has accumulated rich experience in attracting and providing guidance to start-ups, as well as furnish abundant resources to support start-ups in terms of capital, talent training, partner matching and market connection. Besides bringing more resources on board, after adding Gamma O, the start-ups in the Cyberport, especially fintech firms, can be expected to develop more innovative applications, create more win-win business opportunities through the platform, helping them carry out innovative research and development and achieve rapid growth. He hopes to further deepen the collaboration with OneConnect and Ping An and deliver more development opportunities to fintech firms in Hong Kong, Shenzhen and even the entire Pearl River Delta.

The launch of the Gamma O platform provides a shared financial science and technology platform for leading professional fintech companies from China and abroad. Through mutual exchanges, learning and discussion, they can achieve resources and technology sharing leading to the creation of more new technological achievements based on existing ones, with the end result the creation of a highly innovative fintech ecosystem.

Ye Wangchun said that from the perspective of the future development of open banks, a small step for the Gamma O open platform will definitely represent a big step for the entire financial technology ecosystem. In the future, the barrier between technology and business will be further broken, while the financial and business models will continue to evolve, opening up a new space for small and medium-sized banks to develop their own open banks, accelerating the digital transformation of banks, benefiting financial technology and better serving the development of the real economy.