19 July 2019
Alipay promotes its 'Double 12' shopping event in Hong Kong. China's dominant fintech player has expanded fast in the city. Photo: Xinhua
Alipay promotes its 'Double 12' shopping event in Hong Kong. China's dominant fintech player has expanded fast in the city. Photo: Xinhua

Ant Financial eyes new overseas markets for digital payments

After years of stunning growth led by two home-grown giants Alipay and WeChat Pay, China’s digital payments market appears somewhat saturated for now. With business slowing at home, mainland players have begun to set their sights on new markets overseas.

Speaking at a forum in Hong Kong, Kenny Man, head of international investment at Ant Financial, said on Mondaythat his firm — which operates the Alipay online payment app — would like to develop and expand into emerging markets like South America and Africa in the future.

After dominating the domestic market as the nation’s largest online payment operator, Ant Financial has formed nine partnerships in different countries and regions in the past three years, including South Asia, South Korea and Hong Kong.

Man pointed out that from their experience in introducing mobile payment solutions in foreign countries, risk management is a major concern of governments, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

In view of this, Alipay Hong Kong, a joint venture established and managed by CK Hutchison Holdings and Ant Financial, launched a blockchain-powered cross-border remittance service with Philippines-based firm GCash, offering a secure way to transfer money between individuals in Hong Kong and the Philippines.

“Once customers start using mobile payment solutions, they will find it difficult to give up,” Man said.

As to the future development of mobile payment solutions, Man predicted the next five years would see more radical, faster development in digital payments.

He believes mobile payment solutions will be adopted in more daily use cases, though they will not completely replace other payment methods.

According to Man, there will be more daily applications of fintech and blockchain technology, such as peer-to-peer payment feature between various e-wallets.

With its meteoric rise in recent years, Ant Financial, controlled by Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma, has its business spanning online payments, insurance, lending, credit scores, asset management and more.

The dominant Chinese fintech company is preparing for long-awaited initial public offering – expected to take place in mainland China and Hong Kong in 2019.

The fintech behemoth, however, has sparked some concern among Chinese policymakers, who worry that Ant and other new-wave financial firms could pose some systemic risks.

Regulators are now drafting new regulations which may result in stronger capital requirements, making it harder for some firms to maintain their growth.

As Beijing’s crackdown on financial risk deepens, Reuters reported last month that Ant could shift its main focus to technology services and away from payments and consumer finance.

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