Postcards from the Hallways: Digital Finance in China



IFC and China’s Ant Financial Services Group have a big goal: together, helping 100 million people access financial services by 2020. It is a powerful partnership, combining each side’s strengths for larger impact.

Ant Financial, an affiliate of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, is named for an insect for good reason. An ant is small, ordinary, and hard-working—just like the target market of unserved small-business owners, the key job creators in so many economies.

By integrating three of today’s greatest forces—big data, cloud computing, and mobile phones—the firm cuts transaction costs and raises loan-processing speed, leapfrogging others’ costlier models. Its innovative branchless banking system has gone from zero to 5 million micro and small-business borrowers in China in just the last six years, providing unsecured online loans for entrepreneurial growth.

IFC was one of Ant’s earliest partners, investing $250 million and sharing knowledge since 2014. Now expanding into India, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines, Ant is aiming to replicate its success even more widely with IFC. This unique digital finance partnership is on target to meet its 100-million-person goal.


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