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The insurance sector of tomorrow


A pioneer of AI-powered insurance WRIT TEN BY



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With its pioneering use of artificial intelligence and big data, Sunshine Insurance Group is disrupting the insurance sector in China


rtificial intelligence (AI) may be in its infancy but it’s set to radically transform the way we do business. As the cutting-edge technology gains

more traction, it could be argued that no industry is more ripe for disruption than the data-rich insurance

sector where everything from customer service to claims processing has the potential to be enhanced. A recent study from Tata Consultancy Services reported that the insurance sector has invested $124mn in AI compared to an average of $70mn invested by other industries. In China, Sunshine Insurance Group has emerged as a gleaming example of how insurance firms should ready themselves for this seismic shift.


Zhenbin Xu is a seasoned technology leader with world class experiences building highly secure, reliable software and internet-scale services powered by big data, AI and machine learning, for over a billion users. Starting his career with a successful tele-communication startup company in China for one year, Xu joined a software startup on the US East Coast for one year, then moved to the West Coast to join Microsoft in 1998. He worked there for 19 years, with a few years in between working for Microsoft’s Search Technology Centre Asia in China, before joining Sunshine Insurance Group in Beijing in early 2018 to oversee its Big Data and AI strategy and implementation. Reporting to Sunshine Group’s CEO, he also spearheads the group’s longterm technology transformation strategy. Zhenbin has a unique combination of business acumen with technology breadth and depth, a deep understanding of both US and Chinese industry as well as culture, and a startup mentality. He has deep expertise in browser development and web technology, having been a key technical leader for Microsoft’s IE core team and formation of HTML 5 Standard. He worked with Microsoft’s prestigious new Operating System (code name Midori) team for three years incubating future general OS and technologies. In the last few years Xu has held Engineering Leadership roles on Bing Search Engine, Bing Ads and Microsoft Cortana. Key achievements include the founding of Microsoft Internet Security Center Asia and the creation of a security product with 265M installation, 60M DAU within 6 months of release; invention of technology/strategy that generated hundreds of millions of revenue for Bing; delivery of a brand new ad platform/product within one year with committed revenue of $1bn+; incubation of Microsoft Mobile Edge browsers; and development of Cortana Smart Speaker Invoke.


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One person at the helm of Sunshine

paradigm shift, Sunshine

Group’s AI strategy is Zhenbin Xu,

Insurance Group has delved

President’s Office and Chief AI

deep into what AI could offer

Scientist at Sunshine Insurance

the industry.

Group. “The way I look at it, we are at

Xu’s objective is a far-reach-

a transition in time in terms of

ing one: he has worked diligently

technology,” Xu explains. “If we

to transform the company into

define an era by its technology then I

a technology-driven one –

would say we have been through the

enhancing the firm’s culture,

PC internet time, then we went

management and business

through the mobile internet time.

model – and he has also helped

Now we are entering what I call the AI

to drive the insurance group’s AI

or ubiquitous computer era, whereby

and data strategy. Blending both

more and more smart devices are

a people-oriented and technolo-

entering people’s lives, and AI could

gy-driven approach, Xu believes

be applied to them.” Recognising this

that Sunshine Insurance Group

Click to watch: ‘Sunshine Insurance Group - Company overview’

is leaving its mark on the sector. “One of the unique aspects of Sunshine Insurance Group is its strong work culture and vision,” says Xu. “We want to create a financial group that fulfills customers’ multiple needs around financial security and protection. That’s one of the reasons why today Sunshine Insurance Group is extending outside of the core business – insurance is our core business but we also have an internet finance and healthcare function.” “We are also a very technology-driven company. Sunshine Insurance

“If we define an era by its technology then I would say we have been through the PC internet time, then we went through the mobile internet time. Now we are entering what I call the AI or ubiquitous computer era” — Zhenbin Xu, President’s Office and Chief AI Scientist at Sunshine Insurance Group

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Group is one of the top insurance

Group is frequently cited as a China

companies in China and compared to our

Top 500 Enterprise and a China Top

peers we are very technology focused

100 Service Company by China Enter-

and agile. Today there are more smart

prise Directors Association (CEDA).

devices and entry points for people to

Three years after the establishment of

interact, it is still unclear how insurance

its property and casualty company,

companies should adapt to this transition

Sunshine Property and Casualty

– this has presented an opportunity for

Insurance Co. Ltd, it has also surpassed

Sunshine whereby we can invest in AI

71 competitors to become one of the top

with a distinct strategy and product to

eight insurance companies in the region.

best serve customers. We see it as

Delving into the growing field of AI, Xu

a chance to become a market leader.”

is excited for what the future holds.

It seems that this distinctive approach is

Today Sunshine Insurance Group is

paying off: today, Sunshine Insurance

exploring the use of virtual agents,


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WWW.KNOWLOGY.CN 1805, Twin tower-A, Jing twelve road, Ding Mao, Zhenjiang, Jiansu Province

“In the future, our goal is to become the best adapter of the AI technology” — Zhenbin Xu, President’s Office and Chief AI Scientist at Sunshine Insurance Group


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voice technologies, image technologies, video technologies, smart devices and natural language processing (NLP) – and this is just the start. “There are a lot of touch points within our operation where we interact with customers,” Xu adds. “For all the cross points, if you can leverage AI technology, through voice and emotion recognition, face recognition, liveness detection, micro expression analysis, optical character recognition, natural 10

language understanding, knowl-

Click to watch: ‘Sunshine Insuran Group Campus’

edge graph and image-based damage assessment, then we can

the workforce and promoting more

improve the customer experience

data-driven projects.

and speed up the entire process.

“We think big data will also allow

Customers today expect faster

us to provide more differentiated

services, more reliable services and

products to our customers,”

more natural ways to interact with

comments Xu. “For example, in terms

our services. Nowadays we can use

of product pricing, big data definitely

AI technology to achieve that.”

helps us give a more accurate

Leveraging the vast amount of data

service and, in a lot of cases, a much

at its fingertips, Sunshine Insur-

better price to our customers.”

ance Group has also embarked

Xu points out that AI and big data

on a pioneering ‘Data Sunshine’

could also help to fight against one of

strategy to aid the company’s

the costliest elements of the insur-

transition to a more data-driven

ance industry: fraud. By preventing

enterprise. This involved educating

and detecting fraud this will help to

nce 11 reduce the premium for the compa-

Situated in Weifang City in east

ny’s customers, as overhead costs

China’s Shandong province,

will be reduced. On top of this, the

Sunshine Union Hospital stands as

firm is also tapping into other

the country’s first hospital founded

emerging technologies like block-

by an insurance group. Additionally,

chain and usage-based insurance

in its short history, it has also

(UBI) to stay ahead of the curve.

passed the highest standard of

Sunshine Insurance Group has

international medical services and

already proven itself to be a pioneer

management (the Joint Commission

of new technology although interest-

International Accreditation Stand-

ingly, the firm is also exploring new

ards for Hospitals, 6th edition).

sectors and avenues for disruption.

“With our hospital, I believe we

Take for example its latest foray into

tried to achieve two things: firstly,

the healthcare sector with the

we tried to figure out how to combine

company’s own hospital.

insurance with medical treatment. w w w. s i n o s i g . c o m

For example, if you do a health exam at

talent in the sector, recognising that

the hospital you can have the data

these people not only need to be well

available to the insurance part of the

versed in insurance operations, they

business electronically to speed up

also need to be technology-savvy

underwriting and reduce premium.

individuals so that Sunshine Insurance

“Secondly, we also aimed to build

Group can grow its own technology

a first-class hospital using smart AI technologies. It is a technology-rich

“Today many firms rely on outside

facility: we are exploring the latest

companies to provide a technology

AI-enabled digital services and tools to

product for them; the past model

improve the efficiency and the customer

doesn’t work well in this new AI era,”

friendliness of all hospital operations.”

Xu says. “We have to start to consider

With such a far-reaching remit, Xu 12

capabilities internally.

how we can develop our own big data

notes that the firm has worked

and AI capabilities. We need data

diligently to attract and retain the best

scientists. We need AI scientists. We

need the ability to even produce our

our customer experience and

own AI product. That is quite a change:

become a market leader. We’re not

it requires a special company culture,”

just thinking about how we can have

he adds. “Culture is very important

better profits – what my team brings

because without the right culture you

to the company is ‘value innovation’.

cannot hire the right technology talent.”

We’re not thinking about what our

Sunshine Insurance Group has

peers are doing in the Chinese

come leaps and bounds since it was

insurance industry. We’re thinking

first founded over a decade ago. Now,

about where society is moving to,

Xu believes the firm is upending the

how our consumers are changing

insurance sector by becoming an

and how we can serve our customers

early adopter of AI.

with best value and quality of service,

“In the future, our goal is to become

and basing our strategy on that.”

the best adapter of AI technology,” he says. “It is truly helping us to improve


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Kuntai International Mansion B-12 Chaowai Avenue, Building 1 Chaoyang District, Beijing, 100020 People’s Republic of China

T +86 10 5828 9999

Profile for Business Review Asia

Sunshine Insurance Group brochure – 2018  

Sunshine Insurance Group brochure – 2018  

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