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Simon Hu, then CEO of Ant Group ,at the INCLUSION Fintech Conference in Shanghai on September 24, 2020. Photo: Reuters

Ant Group’s chief executive Simon Hu resigns, Eric Jing takes over position with dual role as CEO and chairman

  • Simon Hu Xiaoming was promoted to chief executive officer of Ant Group in September 2019
  • Hu joined Alipay China in 2006, working his way up the ranks and helping to establish AliFinance

Simon Hu Xiaoming, one of the key figures in Ant Group’s explosive transformation from an online payment service into the world’s largest fintech group, has resigned as chief executive officer (CEO).

Hu, 51, will step down as CEO and executive director to devote his “full efforts towards philanthropic work,” according to a letter by Ant Group’s chairman Eric Jing Xiandong to the fintech company’s staff, seen by South China Morning Post. “We have decided to respect Simon’s personal request and support him fully in his new mission.”

Jing, 48, will assume the dual role of Ant Group’s chairman and chief executive effective immediately, according to the latest information on the Hangzhou-based fintech company’s website. Ant Group’s spokespeople confirmed Hu’s resignation and Jing’s new dual role.

Ant Group’s board has accepted Hu’s resignation “due to personal reasons,” the company’s spokespeople said. “We are thankful to Simon for the efforts he made at our company.”

Eric Jing, chairman, and CEO of Ant Financial. SCMP/ Tom Wang
Hu would be the highest-ranking casualty from the fallout of Ant Group’s US$35 billion abandoned stock sale, called off last November a mere 48 hours before shares were due to begin trading in Hong Kong and Shanghai.
Hours before the decision to halt the largest stock offering in global financial history, Hu and Jing accompanied Ant Group’s founder Jack Ma to a meeting with Beijing’s financial regulators, where they were informed that changes were afoot in the business environment that Ant Group was operating in, which would put the company’s dual listing in breach of disclosure rules.
The new rules are part of regulators’ attempt s to redefine and rethink fintech, amid concerns that technology has usurped the fundamentals of finance, creating potential systemic risks in the world’s second-largest economy. That risk raises particular concern for China’s policymakers, as the economy must maintain a suitable growth rate amid the global coronavirus pandemic to maintain employment and ensure social stability.

“Chinese fintech groups have, in some cases, grown so big that their collaborations with banks are increasing contagion risks in China’s financial system,” said Grace Wu, an analyst at Fitch Ratings, speaking in November in the aftermath of the abandoned stock sale. “We expect tighter regulations on fintech companies to continue.”

What constitutes fintech is quietly being argued over in China, the world’s largest fintech market, where physical cash is hardly used in daily life and cashless mobile payments topped  US$14 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2019, according to the  People’s Bank of China (PBOC).

Jing joined Alibaba in 2007 from Guangzhou Pepsi Cola Beverage, where he managed the beverage company’s bottling plants across China. Jing transferred to the Ant Group affiliate in 2009 where he worked up the ranks to chief operating officer in 2014 and CEO in 2016 before his promotion to chairman in 2018. He received an MBA degree from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota and a bachelor’s degree in economics from Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

Hu joined the Hangzhou-based technology group in 2005, working his way up the ranks at both Alibaba and Ant Group. He worked in risk management and managed Alibaba’s loans business for small and medium enterprises.

Before Alibaba, Hu worked for China Construction Bank and China Everbright Bank. Hu helped establish AliFinance unit in 2009 and served as its president. He was promoted to chief executive’s role of Ant Group in 2019 as the fintech giant was beginning to put its initial public offering plan in place.

If Ant Group’s IPO had gone ahead, Hu would have been a wealthy man. He was one of four executives – along with Ma, Jing and Alibaba’s deputy chief people officer Jiang Fang – who held 22 per cent of an entity that directly owned US$125.5 billion worth of Ant Group’s shares in Hong Kong and Shanghai, based on the IPO offer price, according to the company’s listing prospectus.