October 23, 2020

Just Another Payment App? Ant Group: China’s Fintech Behemoth

Below is an excerpt from ISS ESG’s thought leadership paper “Just Another Payment App? Ant Group: China’s Fintech Behemoth.” The full paper is available for download from the Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) online library.


What is today known as Ant Group was originally founded in 2004 as part of Jack Ma’s Alibaba Group. It was a digital payment service that helped to facilitate the e-commerce giant’s online payments. Five years later, in 2009, Alibaba launched the Alipay app (支付宝), which today includes a long list of consumer financial services. Its primary purpose is facilitating cashless transactions online, in stores, restaurants and any other participating merchant or service provider. Since 2010,the app also includes the insurance services for shipments on Taobao, China’s (and the world’s) largest e-commerce platform, which is run by Alibaba. In 2013, the company started offering financial management tools, such as the money-market fund Yu’ebao (余额宝)and, in 2014, it added the consumer credit service Huabei (华呗) to its portfolio. In 2015, the company developed what it calls its “trust score” Zhima Credit (芝麻信用), which leverages user data to assess consumers’ willingness and ability to fulfill commercial contracts. Since 2018, the company also offers Blockchain-as-a-service technology under the separate brand AntChain.

Alipay eventually separated from Alibaba in 2014 under the name Ant Financial, which was changed to Ant Group in 2020. Jack Ma, co-founder, board director and shareholder of Alibaba remains involved today. Private equity investment entities Hangzhou Junao and Hangzhou Junhan currently hold 50.52 percent of Ant Group’s share capital. Both entities are controlled by yet another separate entity, Hangzhou Yunbo, where Jack Ma is the largest shareholder with ownership of 34 percent of shares.

By Antonia Goeser, Philline Managuelod, Karoline Wagner, Julia Wißmeyer; ISS ESG

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