Livi, the virtual bank backed by Bank of China (Hong Kong), has appointed Michael Wang Lan as chief executive, tapping the expertise of a financial manager who previously worked for Tencent-backed WeBank, the first online-only bank in China. Livi is expected to become operational in the fourth quarter of this year with HK$2.5 billion (US$318.54 million) in capital backing from its three investors. Wang was general manager of the interbank and corporate department at WeBank from 2015 to 2017, where he was responsible for the bank’s payment channels, small and medium-sized enterprises and corporate platform online services. BOCHK recruited Wang in February 2017 to head its e-finance department, a period when the Hong Kong Monetary Authority sought to promote lenders in the city to boost their digital banking capabilities. Before joining WeBank, Wang worked for the Bank of China Shenzhen branch. He graduated from Zhongnan University of Economics with a bachelor’s degree in international finance in 1998 and obtained a master’s degree in the finance programme at the Chinese University of Hong Kong-Tsinghua University. Hong Kong hands out virtual bank licences as city catches up with China, Japan in disrupting bricks-and-mortar banking Hong Kong has a total of 160 banks, including many international players, yet the city has lagged regional rivals in developing online banking. WeBank launched on December 2014, just before the mainland started to offer online lending licences to non-bank operators in 2015. Livi was granted an online banking licence along with seven other applicants by the HKMA since March. Wang said Livi would focus on small and mid-sized businesses, as well as individuals, seeking quick access to cash loans. “Livi means daily lives. We want to provide online banking services that can make our customer save money, borrow money and handle their financial matters easily and quickly to enjoy their lives. Livi will begin by providing simple saving and loan products and will expand into investment products at a later stage,” Wang said at a media briefing on Thursday. “There are many traditional banks in Hong Kong but we believe Livi can compete. Many customers want to borrow a few thousand dollars, which is too small in the eyes of large banks. Many young customers also do not want to wait in a queue at the bank for services. Livi will allow them to apply for a small number of bank loans in just a few minutes via their mobile phone or desktop,” Wang said. He said the virtual bank would also be targeting small and medium-sized businesses which are overlooked by larger financial institutions. Wang said he plans to recruit about 100 staff when Livi opens in the fourth quarter with an eventual target of 200 staff. BOCHK owns a 44 per cent share of Livi, while JD Digits owns 36 per cent and conglomerate Jardines owns 20 per cent. The three shareholders have committed HK$2.5 billion in capital, which is higher than the average HK$1.9 billion in capital among all eight virtual bank lenders, according to HKMA data. “The initial investment will mainly be used to develop technology and do recruitment,” Wang said. Wang said Livi will seek ways to work with Jardines, whose retail network includes the supermarket Wellcome, 7-Eleven, the chemist Mannings and restaurant chains Pizza Hut and KFC in Hong Kong. He added that Livi will also consider partnering with travel companies in offering online banking services.