Fintech

WeChat taps Hong Kong’s community of 170,000 Filipinos to help them remit funds home

‘We Remit’ function in Tencent’s popular mobile app provides an alternative way for 170,000 overseas Filipinos in the city to send money home

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 October, 2017, 7:00pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 October, 2017, 11:27pm

Mainland internet giant Tencent Holdings has partnered with Hong Kong financial technology start-up EMQ to provide WeChat as a trusted, new remittance channel for around 170,000 Filipino migrant workers in the city.

“We worked with Tencent to change the user behaviour and user experience of remitting money from Hong Kong to families in the Philippines,” said Max Liu, the co-founder and chief executive of EMQ, in a panel about digital banking and financial inclusion on the second day of Hong Kong FinTech Week.

“There is nothing better than to put out a product that adds value.”

EMQ collaborated with Tencent to bring to Hong Kong’s largest ethnic minority the new “We Remit” function on WeChat, the mobile messaging service that has evolved into the mainland’s largest social network, as well as a popular online platform for payments and money transfers.

Users of We Remit, which went live in the second quarter of this year, can send money to the Philippines through the WeChat mobile app with no charge and confirm that the remittance had been received on the other end in under 10 minutes, according to Liu.

He said that convenience would allow more Filipino domestic workers to enjoy their off day on Sundays, instead of queuing up for about four hours, filling up forms and paying between HK$150 and HK$200 in fees to remit money.

Should Tencent decide to implement remittance fees in future, Liu said these would still be far cheaper than what existing service providers charge.

He said users can top up the money in their WeChat mobile wallet, which is where the funds sent via We Remit originate, by paying the amount needed at any of the more than 900 7-Eleven stores in the city.

EMQ, which has a Money Service Operator license from the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department, estimated that Filipino migrant workers send about HK$6 billion (US$768.8 million) in annual foreign-exchange remittances to the Philippines from Hong Kong.

Liu said EMQ works with a network of banks to ensure that application providers, such as Tencent, have a safe and less costly way to transfer money internationally.

The market shake-up initiated by Tencent could impact various established Philippine banks, international money transfer providers and other remittance channels directly catering to the city’s Filipino workers.

Total remittances made to the Philippines reached US$30 billion last year, second behind the US$61 billion sent to mainland China, according to the World Bank.

Cross-border money transfer has been a major focus for Tencent to further develop WeChat, which had 963 million monthly active users as of June 30.

In 2015, payments provider Western Union started supporting WeChat users in the US to send money to 200 countries through their connected platforms.