Operator of Alipay switches CEO ahead of listing

Eric Jing to take over from Lucy Peng who remains as executive chairwoman of Ant Financial online payments system ahead of its Hong Kong listing next year

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 October, 2016, 11:03pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 October, 2016, 11:17pm

Alibaba Group’s financial affiliate has appointed a new chief executive officer as it prepares for a highly anticipated 2017 initial public offering.

Ant Financial Services Group named finance veteran and president Eric Jing to take the helm from Lucy Peng, who retains her role as executive chairwoman, according to an emailed statement from the company on Saturday.

The management shuffle comes as Ant Financial is said to plan an IPO in Hong Kong next year, which could be one of the city’s biggest debuts since 2010. Since its inception as the operator of Alipay, Ant Financial – an online payments system with 450 million active users – has expanded into wealth management, credit scoring and peer-to-peer lending.

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Peng had in the past six years been “a rock-steady presence in the face of changing times” and would now focus on developing the company’s long-term global strategy, Jack Ma, the co-founder of Alibaba which owns the South China Morning Post and controls Ant Financial, said in an internal memo. Jing “will lead the Ant Team to new heights, to new surprises.”

Ant Financial, whose Alipay also forms the financial backbone of China’s largest e-commerce service, is worth at least US$75 billion, according to CLSA, a Hong Kong-based brokerage and investment group . The company has said repeatedly it has set neither a timeline nor a destination for a listing.

China’s largest online financial services company competes with Tencent Holdings in online payments as well as internet services from dining to food delivery. Its rapid expansion into multiple arenas of internet finance has increased the need for risk management, even as Tencent’s own payments service on social media platform WeChat takes market share away from Alipay.

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Jing, recently named an Alibaba board member, majored in economics and was formerly chief financial officer of Guangzhou Pepsi Cola Beverage Co. He joined Alibaba in 2007 in the corporate finance division. He then moved to Alipay in 2009 and drove key Ant Financial products including Yu E Bao, China’s largest money market fund. He also oversaw the development of the company’s micro-loans and credit rating businesses.

Jing received a degree in economics from Shanghai Jiao Tong University in 1994. He also has an MBA from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. A native of eastern Anhui province, Jing is married with two children, according to the company.

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His predecessor Peng, one of the original co-founders of Alibaba, had been CEO since March 2013. She was named 35th on Forbes’ list of the world’s 100 most powerful women this year. A graduate of Zhejiang Gongshang University in 1994, she was a university teacher in Hangzhou for five years before joining Alibaba.

This isn’t the first time Alibaba and its affiliates have shuffled top management. Before Alibaba’s 2014 IPO, Ma stepped down as CEO to take on a more strategic planning role, to expand the company’s business beyond e-commerce into finance, entertainment and health. His apprentice, Jonathan Lu, took on the role of CEO only to be replaced by Daniel Zhang two years later, as sales growth in e-commerce slumped.