Jack Ma’s online bank lifts off

If anyone can get the Chinese to use Internet banking it’s probably Alibaba.

Ant Financial Services Group, the financial affiliate of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding, launched on Thursday, MYbank, an Internet bank run entirely on the cloud.

MYbank says it’s focused on helping the “little guy,” the entrepreneurs of small businesses. It plans to issue loans up to 5 million yuan to small and micro enterprises, entrepreneurs and individual consumers.

“Answering to the needs of those who have limited access to financial services in China is our mission,” said Eric Jing, Mybank executive chairman, in a written statement. “MYbank is here to give affordable loans for small and micro enterprises, and we are here to provide banking services, not for the rich, but for the little guys.”

The bank’s cloud-based model requires much lower operational costs than the traditional brick-and-mortar banking model, Jing added. He added that rural users will be one of three target groups for whom MYbank aims to provide financial services.

Getting Americans and European to trust Internet banking in an era of cybercrime has been an uphill battle for most banks. And these two populations are already quite comfortable with using credit cards and other forms of money that use electronic systems.

But the Chinese as a population trust only cash. It’s not unusual to see someone in China pay for a $60,000 car with cash bills.

“The average Chinese trusts neither the Chinese banks nor the Communist Party,” Friedrich Schneider, an authority on shadow economies around the world and a professor of economics at the Johannes Kepler University of Linz in Austria, told The New York Times. “This is simply a mistrust of government. And so lots of people deal only in cash.”

But the Chinese love Alibaba and its founder, Jack Ma. So, if anyone can get them to bank on the Web, Ma can.

In September, MYbank became one of the first privately-owned banks to receive a license from the China Banking Regulatory Commission. In addition to Ant, other shareholders in MYBank include Shanghai Fosun Industrial Technology Development, Wanxiang Sannong, and Ningbo Jinrun Asset Management. The bank begins with registered capital of 4 billion yuan.

Without any brick-and-mortar locations, the bank can lower its operational costs and invest in providing financial solutions for those who benefit little from the existing banking structure. MYbank currently has 300 employees

“MYbank provides financial services and products for our users on the Internet 24/7,” Yu Shengfa, Governor of MYbank said in a written statement. “Leveraging our cloud computing capabilities, our users can apply and pay their loans whenever and wherever on their smart phones.”



Categories: Asia Unhedged, China

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