Ant Group’s next move: Financial services and beyond?

Ant Group has ambitious plans to build and operate platform business models. At a recent analyst event, they shared their vision and strategy for the future.

Ant Group recently made news with its plans to go public simultaneously in Hong Kong and Shanghai. As an affiliate of Alibaba and the owner of Alipay, the firm rebranded from Ant Financial to Ant Group in early 2020, aiming to further evolve its business model and accelerate its global expansion. On July 24, Ant Group held its first analyst event to share its vision and future strategy. 

The 16-year-old digital giant, which now serves more than 1.3 billion users globally, sees its future in building and operating platform business models. This is not a new strategy, but Ant Group has made strong progress in 2019. During the event, the firm revealed that it will: 

  • Leverage its tech-driven capabilities to serve more financial institutions. Ant Group, growing from Alipay — an online payment system for eCommerce — has successfully expanded to wealth management (Ant Fortune) and online banking (MYbank). To enable these successes, Ant Group has developed a unique portfolio of tech-driven capabilities for the financial services industry, including database, cloud-native, middleware components and blockchain platforms. In fact, according to Ant Group CEO Simon Hu, the firm made more than 50% of its revenue in 2019 by selling technology products and services to financial institutions. The firm expects this ratio to continue to expand in the future. 

  • Take its inclusive finance value proposition global. Ant Group created the 310 online lending model (three minutes to apply, one second to approve, and zero human intervention), which has served 29 million small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) in China, a number that has nearly tripled since 2018. This data-driven, noncollateral-based lending model kept the nonperforming loans (NPL) rate under 2%, even during the COVID-19 period. The 310 model is not exclusive to MYbank: Ant Group offers it to other financial institutions. With digital wallets co-owned across nine countries across Asia, Ant Group has already paved the way for its globalization strategy. It plans to cooperate with financial institutions across Southeast Asia based on its 310 model, targeting a large base of the unbanked population. 

  • Expand its open platform capabilities. Ant Group does not position itself as a digital disruptor but rather as a digital enabler. The acquisition of Ele.me in the logistics space has shown Ant Group's ambition with platform business models outside financial services. During the analyst event, Hu mentioned Ant Group will follow a win-win strategy to serve the digital transformation needs of financial institutions as well as the diversified needs of SMEs. To stimulate local economies after the pandemic, local governments have also partnered with Alipay to send out coupons to citizens. This program mainly targets SMEs. In Hefei, Anhui Province, 160,000 enterprises have applied through the Alipay platform as qualified consumption stores. 

Forrester has studied platform business models across North America, Europe, and also China, and will be happy to have a discussion with you. 

This post was written by Analyst Guannan Lu, and it originally appeared here