Finance at un­der­served’s fin­ger­tips

Eric Jing is lead­ing Ant Fi­nan­cial to cor­po­rate glory by mar­ry­ing fin­tech with so­cial con­science

China Daily (USA) - - BUSINESS - By MENGJING mengjing@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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.”

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Eric Jing said he is a firm believer that the dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy-pow­ered in­clu­sive finance can change peo­ple’s lives.

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