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Hong Kong issues 1st digital-only insurance license to startup Bowtie Life

Hong Kong's Insurance Authority has granted the first license under an expedited scheme for digital-only insurers to local startup Bowtie Life Insurance Co. Ltd.

Bowtie Life is a company looking to provide products with simple structures, high protection elements and low premiums through digital distribution channels without going through intermediaries, said Clement Cheung, CEO of the IA.

The company raised funds of HK$234 million in Series A funding, and counts Sun Life Financial Inc. unit Sun Life Hong Kong Ltd. and Hong Kong X Technology Fund, which is backed by Neil Shen, founding and managing partner of Sequoia Capital China, among its investors.

The IA launched the expedited licensing program for digital-only insurers, known as Fast Track, in September 2017 to promote the development and application of new technology in the city's insurance sector. The Hong Kong regulator also introduced the Insurtech Sandbox scheme to help insurers test new technology in a controlled environment.

In September, Hong Kong-based AVIVA Life Insurance Co. Ltd. rebranded itself as Blue, a purely digital life insurer, though its license was not obtained under the IA's Fast Track scheme. The company is a joint venture between Aviva PLC, investment firm Hillhouse Capital Management Ltd. and tech giant Tencent Holdings Ltd.