Internet finance

Mainland China's peer-to-peer pioneer lauds big innovation for a big place

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 April, 2015, 6:40am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 April, 2015, 2:36pm

While working on the mainland might not offer the best salaries in the world, few places offer the challenge of making big changes in a big country, says Gregory Gibb, a founder and manager of one of the country's leading peer-to-peer lending platforms.

"For me it's not all about money, it's about trying to build something different," said Gibb, chairman of Shanghai Lujiazui International Financial Asset Exchange, or Lufax, the peer-to-peer arm of the mainland's second-largest insurer, Ping An Group.

Within months of joining Ping An in 2011 as chief innovation officer and CEO of Ping An Financial Technology, Gibb was tasked with starting Lufax from scratch. The venture was up and running by September that year, when the development of peer-to-peer as a platform for investment and wealth management products was still in its infancy.

China's peer-to-peer lending platforms serve as matchmakers for borrowers in need of small loans and individual investors. Peer-to-peer businesses offering loans mostly under 100,000 yuan (HK$126,000) have emerged as an alternative financing option for small businesses having difficulty tapping funds from banks due to concerns about debt risks.

Gibb said he earned the same as he did seven years ago. "But the motivation for me has been to build something that can change the way things work," he said.

It was "amazing and remarkable" how quickly internet finance had caught on, Gibb said, adding that no one expected people would buy financial products over the internet two or three years ago.

Gibb's career took off when the mainland's consulting industry gained a foothold in the 1990s.

"In retrospect, it would made sense to come to China in 2005 or 2006, when the market was getting more sophisticated and needed new ideas," he said.

Gibb is a fluent Mandarin speaker, which he credits with advancing his career. He started learning the language in 1985 at university: "I really did it for fun".