Woman Of The Year Jessica Tan: Power Play
Her World Singapore|October 2021
The co-CEO and executive director of insurance company Ping An Group says she assesses achievement through impact.
Sophie Hong

CO-CEO & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: PING AN GROUP

Jessica is a firm believer in creating impact and value in business, which has been the cornerstone of her driving force. In 2020, Fortune magazine named her second on the Most Powerful Women International list among businesses outside of the US. Educated at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology and armed with a computer engineering degree, she started her career at consulting firm McKinsey & Company. Thirteen years later in 2013, she joined Chinese insurance company, Ping An, as group chief information officer, and was behind numerous technology breakthroughs to power the company's growth into a global financial service mammoth, including developing a telehealth app offering free online medical consultations during the peak of the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020.

Today, the insurance giant’s impressive international network of digital offerings and services is a testament to Jessica'spersistent efforts, sheer hard work mixed with resilient grit, that have successfully created value and impact for Ping An.

Jessica Tan now just wants to be happy, and also make sure that her family is happy. These are “simple aspirations” for the co-CEO and executive director of Ping An Group, who has, over the past seven years, helped steer China’s largest insurance company to record profits as well as double its share price. Her career has had only two parts, by her own admission – 13 years at McKinsey and eight at Ping An – but it has undoubtedly been a very impactful period of 21 years.

Since joining Ping An in 2013 as group chief information officer, Jessica has masterminded its numerous technology breakthroughs to power the company’s growth into a global financial service mammoth with over 223 million retail customers and 627 million Internet users (as at June 30, 2021). Its Ping An Good Doctor tele-health app, which offers free online medical consultations, garnered 1.1 billion hits during the peak of the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020, and was singled out as a crucial first line of defence for the country. Supported by a tech team that she expanded from 3,000 to more than 34,000, she’s also successfully incubated 11 startups and raised four unicorn outfits – three of which are listed – for Ping An.

Last year, Jessica was named second in Fortune magazine’s Most Powerful Women International list, among businesses based outside of the US.

A TOPPER FROM YOUNG

As a child, Jessica strived to be a good student. Her parents – her father was an engineer with Texas Instruments, and her mother, an accountant turned homemaker – constantly reminded Jessica and her two younger sisters that hard work was the only path to success in life.

Although she was not always at the top of her class in primary school, Jessica was the top scorer for her cohort at the Primary School Leaving Examinations at Ai Tong School, and continued to perform well through school. Her industry paid offand she earned a place to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Although she qualified for a scholarship, her father insisted on paying her school fees in full so she wouldn’t have to serve a bond. “He wanted me to experience studying and working in the US,” she recalls.

During her second year at MIT, however, the Asian financial crisis hit, wiping out all of her family’s savings. Her father had to take bank loans and even maxed out his credit card to pay her school fees – the sacrifices her parents and her siblings had to make during that difficult time is something that Jessica will eternally be grateful for. To lessen the burden, Jessica started juggling “odd jobs” on campus, from research work for professors to manning the dormitory’s reception desk during the holidays.

“My highest paying job was with the IT help desk, where I assisted students and professors with computer problems. I started at US$10 an hour, but as I became more experienced, I got US$13 an hour,” she smiles at the memory.

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