Ant Finance, a payment branch of the e-commerce and retail giant Alibaba, has launched a blockchain-based money remittance service. Ant Finance is the parent company of the world’s largest online payments platform Alipay, which could hugely benefit from further integration of distributed ledger technology to its operations.
The new service trials were announced at a press conference held in Hong Kong and it seems the initial plan is to offer it for customers sending money between Hong Kong and Philippines. The first transfer was successfully completed between the AliPayHK app in Hong Kong and Filipino payment app GCash. The companies claim the new service will settle transactions within seconds, while its users will not have to deal with intermediaries, who often charge lofty taxes.
Philippines was the third biggest remittance market globally in 2017, with inflows of over $33 billion, while Hong Kong is among the top money transfer destinations for Filipinos abroad. Thus, the new service targets a market with undoubted potential, providing round-the-clock money transfer between the two countries with much lower transaction fees, which will even be obsolete during the three month trial period.
The outspoken CEO of Alibaba Jack Ma hinted the new app will soon expand to other countries, saying that, “Using blockchain to achieve cross-border remittances is one of my most concerned projects in the past six months. Starting from Hong Kong, AlipayHK will be brought to the rest of the world in the future“.
He also went on to reaffirm his belief in the future of blockchain technology, claiming that, “Blockchain should not be a tech to get rich overnight…There are still 1.7 billion people in the world who have no bank accounts, but most of them have mobile phones. The impact of blockchain on the future of humans may be far beyond our imagination.“
The announcement comes amid the recent news that Ant Finance has secured a staggering $14 billion of funding, most of which will be spent on distributed ledger technology development.
Despite being a staunch proponent of blockchain, Ma criticizes cryptocurrencies and particularly BTC on a constant basis, this time saying that bitcoin could be a bubble, while blockchain is most definitely not.
He also took aim at current financial giants, claiming they are overcharging for international payments. Banks and other remittance services currently operating in Hong Kong charge a transaction fee but users might also have to pay additional commission and currency conversion fees.
Ma finished by saying that, “Traditional financial institutions serve 20 percent of people and make 80 percent of profits. New financial institutions should service 80 percent of people, and make 20 percent of profit.“
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