QFPay poised to help bring mainland’s mobile payment services to a global audience

Beijing-based start-up – with what co-founder calls “Hong Kong DNA” – processed more than 20 billion yuan worth of transactions last year

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 October, 2016, 2:27pm
UPDATED : Friday, 14 October, 2016, 10:43pm

A Hong Kong entrepreneur and his Beijing-based mobile payment startup QFPay is set to play a pivotal role in expand the mainland’s booming mobile payment services around the world.

Referring collectively to Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent as the country’s “BAT”, QFPay co-founder Tim Lee Ying-ho says he sees them as “aircraft carriers”.

“When they set sail, now eyeing the global market, they need to be assisted by some tugboats – and QFPay is one of those boats,” he explains.

QFPay produces the point-of-sale (POS) terminals that allow e-payments to be taken from smart devices.

Its technology is already central to Alipay and WeChat Pay’s services on the mainland, and Lee says in future it will continue to help the BAT powerhouses localise their services around the world.

Merchants can accept payments on its terminals via Alipay, WeChat Pay, Baidu Wallet and other mobile apps and last year Lee said the company, established in 2012, processed more than 20 billion yuan worth of transactions.

A Beijing-based start-up with what Lee calls “Hong Kong DNA”, he says QFPay’s great advantage is its understanding of both markets.

Hong Kong’s “759 Store” chain of outlets is one of its key partner merchants in the city, accepting payments by Alipay and WeChat Pay.

“Hong Kong’s regulatory framework and its users’ behaviour are more similar to global markets, so it is a good testing ground.

“If our products or new features work in Hong Kong and are able to comply to the rules here, we are confidence of taking them to any market overseas,” says Hong Kong-born Lee.

“However, we cannot copy our products directly from the mainland and use them overseas, as markets and rules vary enormously. Such a discrepancy is often overlooked by mainland mobile payment companies,” he added.

Despite the massive expansion in mobile payments in the mainland, Lee says some of the regulations governing the sector remain vague and very different to other markets.

“Of course, some problems that exist overseas do not happen on the mainland, too, but we can come up with solutions to help with fine-tuning, wherever Alipay or WeChat Pay are being introduced,” he said.

WeChat Pay’s “red packet” feature, used widely across the mainland, that gifts random amounts of money to consumers upon e-payments at shops or restaurants, is a prime example.

That kind of random payment is heavily regulated under Hong Kong’s gambling ordinance and needs a license.

“Mainland companies find it hard to understand why that’s a problem – but our team in Hong Kong has been able to provide a solution,” he said, in this case providing fixed amount options, to replace the random nature of the amounts given in the mainland.

What Lee calls Hong Kong’s “multicultural ambiance and education” allows his team there to be a lot more flexible to change.

QFPay kick-started its overseas strategy in February, with its setting up of the Hong Kong office.

Its terminals now have six versions – traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese, English, Korean, Japanese and Thai, and trials are expected to run in South Korea, Japan, the UK, Canada and Thailand.

“These markets are being targeted initially by Alipay and WeChat Pay as they are top destinations of Chinese outbound travellers,” he said.

In the mainland, smaller merchants are the main users of QFPay’s POS terminal, Lee said, but overseas much larger brands, from retailers to catering fims, have already approached the company to see how they can use Alipay and WeChat Pay, as they gear their offerings towards the massive Chinese Chinese tourist market.

QFPay has sold its services to 500,000 merchants in the mainland, and more than 1,000 elsewhere, a lot of which are in Hong Kong.

The next step in its development is expanding from mainly retail customers to others who need more sophisticated POS terminals, offering service packages, systems integration and more payment features.

“Our number of overseas merchants is still not significant, it takes time to educate people in other markets,” he adds. “But there is huge potential for more diversified global services in future.”