GoBear to launch online insurance broking and lending business

May 20, 2019 15:10
Financial product comparison website GoBear, led by CEO Adrian Chng (inset), is stepping up business expansion plans after raising new funds. Photo: GoBear

Online platform GoBear, which allows users to search and compare various financial products in the marketplace, recently received US$80 million in fresh funding. Following the capital infusion, the company is stepping up business expansion initiatives. 

Chief Executive Adrian Chng told EJ Insight in an interview that the four-year-old firm plans to launch online insurance broking and lending service, adding a new income source to its business.

Since its founding in 2015, GoBear has expanded to six markets, namely Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, beside its home base of Singapore.

The platform has served over 40 million users searching for more than 1,800 personal finance products, according to Chng. Earlier this month, GoBear announced that it secured US$80 million in total from investors that included Dutch venture capital fund Walvis Participaties and Netherlands-based financial services provider Aegon.

Chng did not disclose the company’s post-money valuation, but he stated that the newly acquired funds will be used towards driving growth through product and technology, such as improving the platform’s search and match functionality, and expanding partnerships with, and investments into other tech firms, to acquire access to additional key technology.

As a financial product comparison website, GoBear screens out suitable financial products according to users' needs, allowing people to compare different products and services. While the service is free to users, Chng said GoBear does not accept rebates or kickbacks or other inducements from financial service companies to favor a particular product or brand.

The company generates revenue by selling clicks and leads, and in some cases, it also has a cost-per-acquisition (CPA) model where the partners pay GoBear once they sell a product to GoBear users.

In the interview, Chng said the platform will add income from two new offerings, digital insurance broking, and digital lending businesses. It is setting up digital insurance broking service either by way of partnering with local insurance brokers, or by attaining its own license. GoBear also considers directly selling insurance and financing products on its own website, said Chng, adding that the firm will be working closely with its financial service partners to build the end-to-end funnel for users.

On GoBear’s future, Chng said it is transforming from purely generating sales leads for financial institutions, to a source of consumer data to help financial institutions understand potential customers based on digital personas and journeys.

“GoBear starts by understanding what the user is searching for in the relevant product, and based on their input and profile, we match them with a product they can get or will be interested in,” he said.

GoBear’s partners will be able to work with the firm to get deep insights, based on the user search data on the platform, allowing them to provide users with personalized financial products.

The platform can work with banks leveraging the development of Hong Kong’s Open API initiative, which allows financial institutions to open up their internal IT systems and data for programmatic access by third-party service providers, the CEO noted.

“GoBear can generate real-time pricing and personalized offers for our users,” said Chng. “We can also integrate the acquisition flow with partners to make it more seamless and easy for the customer.”

“As Asia’s financial supermarket, GoBear plays an important role to bridge consumers and the product/service providers, providing them one platform to search, match and transact on the products they want.”

As GoBear grows, it is expanding from the goal of “TripAdvisor of financial services”, to driving financial inclusivity in Asia by being the trusted financial supermarket, a place people can go to get financially included and bolster their financial security, in particular targeting consumers who are underserved by traditional banks and the financial establishment, Chng said.

Unlike Hong Kong or Singapore, there are many regions in Asia that have not yet established a sound financial services market. There is a huge unbanked population in some emerging markets in Southeast Asia region, Chng noted, adding that GoBear is evolving to fill the supply gap.

“We want to ensure that our ‘shelves’ are properly stocked with a broad range of products, and be able to connect consumers in Asia to these products,” he said.

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EJ Insight writer