Jack Ma-led Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba’s fintech conglomerate Ant Financial considers blockchain technology as one of the five key technologies that will dominate every industry in the long-term.
Ant Financial Hopes to Use Blockchain in its Core Businesses
At the TechCrunch International City Event held in Hangzhou this week, Zhang Hui, the director of Blockchain Department at Ant Financial, stated that alongside AI, Security, IoT, and computing, blockchain is a key technology the company is actively developing and testing to implement it at a large commercial scale.
Zhang noted that in terms of immutability and decentralization, blockchain technology in its current form is impeccable. Using blockchain enables the ability to process sensitive data and personal information in a peer-to-peer manner without the involvement of intermediaries. However, Zhang emphasized that scalability is a major issue of blockchain technology that needs to be addressed to bring in conglomerates and industry leaders into the blockchain sector.
In the long-term, Zhang and the rest of his team at Ant Financial believe the company will implement blockchain technology onto its core businesses and platforms, as Alibaba founder and chairman Jack Ma suggested in 2017. However, for the technology to have significant impact on existing financial infrastructures, its capacity will need to be improved exponentially to handle tens of thousands of transactions per second.
TechCrunch partner Technode, a technology publication in China, reported:
“Looking forward, Zhang hopes that blockchain will create new business models for the company and not just provide value-added services. Zhang also hopes to expand their blockchain-based cross-border payment services globally and explore more B2C use cases.”
Influence of Ant Financial in the Asian Market
In Asia, even outside of China, Ant Financial’s core platform Alipay is widely utilized as an alternative payment method to cash. By mainstream adoption, Alipay is ahead of Samsung Pay, Android Pay, and Apple Pay in most Asian countries including Japan, China, Thailand, and Taiwan.
In May, due to the rapid growth of Alipay, Ant Financial raised a staggering $10 billion from a group of global and local investors, valuing the company at $150 billion. One of the investors in Ant Financial is Khazanah Nasional, a sovereign wealth fund of the Government of Malaysia, which holds commercial assets of the government.
The interest towards digital assets and their underlying technology by Ant Financial may lead to the adoption of the technology by Alipay, which remains as the biggest fintech platform in the world as of July 2018, without major competitors.
Earlier in June, Alibaba chairman Jack Ma described the meteoric rise of digital assets and their exponential increase in value since 2017 a “bubble,” but noted that the blockchain is a revolutionary technology.
“It is…not right to become rich overnight by betting on blockchain. Technology itself isn’t the bubble, but bitcoin likely is,” Ma said.
As a controlling shareholder of Ant Financial, Ma also said that the technology should be used to solve data privacy, security, and sustainability issues, and not finance tools and concepts for making money, referring to ICOs and newly emerging tokens.
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E. Sue Bennett