Wecash and its 32-year-old founder are driving this joint bid for a virtual bank license in Hong Kong
Wecash, a Beijing-based fintech start-up has teamed up with Japanese financial firm ORIX and Hong Kong property developer SEA Group to apply for a virtual bank licence from the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, reflecting another international alliance seeking to enter the city’s online banking business.
George Zhi Zhengchun, 32, founder and chief executive of Wecash, said his company will be the largest stakeholder in the joint venture, without disclosing specific details of the underlying structure. The three stakeholders will invest a combined HK$1 billion (US$127.88 million) into the virtual bank to offer consumer financing in Hong Kong. The application was submitted before the deadline on August 31.
“The three major shareholders have their strengths and networks and they would all contribute to the virtual bank,” Zhi said in an exclusive interview with the Post in Hong Kong.
“Wecash has the technology to use big data and machine learning to assess various credit-based metrics to support banks to offer loans to customers and in the last year. Wecash makes about 20 million transactions in China annually, while ORIX has nearly 20 years of experience in running an online bank in Japan. SEA Group is a Hong Kong company which knows the local regulations and has a good network.”
The Wecash-led consortium is yet another multinational alliance among the 29 applicants seeking a virtual bank licence from the HKMA. The de facto central bank last year announced seven measures to promote fintech, and said it plans to issue the first batch of virtual bank licences by the end of 2018.
Wecash, based in Beijing, was founded by Zhi five years ago and has since expanded to Singapore, Indonesia, Brazil and India via local partnerships.
Zhi said his company is able to provide data on consumer shopping habits and credit scores to help financial firms assess lending risk and set interest rates accordingly.
If the application is successful, Zhi said he plans to focus services towards consumer loans for shopping online and for medical services.
Zhi said Japanese partner ORIX can help share valuable experience from almost two decades
of operation of an online bank.
Established in Osaka in 1964 as Orient Leasing, ORIX rose as a pioneer in lease financing during Japan’s high economic growth period in the 1960s. It diversified into other banking and financial services from the 1970s including a branch in Hong Kong which opened in 1971. The company is listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange and has operations in 38 countries worldwide.
Lambert Lu, chief executive and executive director of SEA Group said that the developer wants to join the virtual bank to promote fintech in Hong Kong.
“Hong Kong has been home to SEA Group since 1956. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to partner with Wecash and ORIX again to contribute to the sustainable development of Hong Kong as an international financial centre, in the fintech arena,” Lu said.
The virtual bank application also reflects SEA Group’s first foray into the finance business. The Hong Kong company was set up in 1956 to focus on investment, trading, and textile manufacturing but later switched into property development. In recent years, SEA Group has bought a number of iconic properties in Britain, including 20 Moorgate in London, which is the headquarters of the United Kingdom Prudential Regulation Authority.
There are several multinational alliances are in the running for a virtual bank license, including a joint bid from Australia’s Airwallex and Bank of East Asia, and mainland Chinese firm Sequoia Capital China.
A second joint bid is comprised of Hong Kong-listed CASH Financial Services Group, Shenzhen IT firm Forms Syntron Information (HK) and mobile payment solution company QFPay Haojin FinTech.
Another alliance is Zhong An Bank allied with China Citic Bank.
Other confirmed stand-alone applicants included Standard Chartered Bank, HKT, online lender WeLab.