Finance at underserved’s fingertips
Eric Jing is leading Ant Financial to corporate glory by marrying fintech with social conscience
For Eric Jing, president of Ant Financial Services Group, finance is a powerful tool that can “help people live a much happier life”.
“But using digital technologies, the threshold to get financial services can be lowered,” said the 43-year-old, adding his company’s mission is to enable entrepreneurs, small and micro businesses and young people to get closer to their dreams via financial services, whether it is a dream to buy a smartphone or bankroll their own businesses.
The Hangzhou-based internet finance major led by Jing is already a big player in terms of changing people’s lives in China.
Backed by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, Ant Financial has gained 450 million users in China, who use it to pay for purchases online, borrow small loans, invest idle money that can earn yields higher than those offered by traditional banks via its Alipay service and other digital tools.
Earlier this year, the company raised $4.5 billion by offloading a stake to investors — an exercise that reportedly valued the company at $60 billion, making it the most valuable Chinese financial technology company by far. Next, Ant Financial could launch its initial public offering as soon as this year, according toWestern media reports.
Jing, who joined Alibaba
We can help more countries ... to lower the threshold and enable more disadvantaged groups to enjoy financial services.” Eric Jing, president of Ant Financial Services Group
Group about ten years ago as one of its first professional managers, said that Ant Financial hasn’t yet formulated a timetable for an IPO.
“But we will go public someday because as a finance company we want to be more transparent to our investors and users. In addition, we hope people who enjoy using our services will become our shareholders via an IPO,” he said.
Going global, which is Ant Financial’s top priority now, is another area that requires big funds, something anIPOcould probably bankroll, he said.
About two billion people around the world don’t have bank accounts. That means they lack the basic credit record to obtain financial services, either for personal shopping or to set up their own businesses, from traditional banks. This represents a great opportunity for Ant Financial, Jing said.
“China has world-leading internet technologies. With our experience of using internet technologies to provide inclusive finance, we can help more countries, especially developing countries, to lower the threshold and enable more disadvantaged groups to enjoy financial services,” he told China Daily in a recent interview.
In Hangzhou where the company is based, Jing said he is very comfortable going around without a wallet. “About 80 percent or even 90 percent of the things I need to do can be done via smartphone,” he said.
Alipay, China’s most popular mobile wallet operated by Ant Financial, offers users a plethora of services in Hangzhou. They range from making appointments at local hospitals, gettingsubway train tickets to borrowing umbrellas and portable batteries at various locations without paying or keeping a deposit, if their online shopping record and other online footprints suggest a good credit background.
Ant Financial aims to replicate its success inChina in other countries. Jing said the company has a goal of attracting 2 billion customers in the next 10 years, about 60 percent of them from outside China.
In India, Ant Financial early last year invested in Paytm, one of India’s largest digital transaction platforms. Since then, the Indian company has gone from strength to strength, in terms of customers whose number surged from 22 million to more than 130 million.
That ambitious goal, Jing said, makes him feel as if he is still working for a startup, even though Ant Financial already has 7,000 employees. “The bigger our business becomes, the more responsibility I shoulder. Especially in the financial services industry, we need to accept rising responsibility and risks with care and caution,” he said.
An Ant Financial employee said Jing typically puts in 16-hour work-days. Jing’s life and dedication to his job, it appears, represent practice of a little theory in his profile on Ant Financial’s website: “Life wants 1 thing from us, our best. If we give life our best, it will give us its best.”
Eric Jing said he is a firm believer that the digital technology-powered inclusive finance can change people’s lives.