Alibaba strengthens financial unit with new hire

Alibaba has recruited a well-known economist and finance professor as chief strategy officer of Ant Financial Services Group.

Chen Long, a professor at Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business, a private educational institution in Beijing, will join Alibaba’s new financial services unit. Ant Financial was launched in October to engage in financial service businesses linked to Alipay, the payments arm of the Chinese e-commerce giant.

Alibaba says Ant Financial will have six business pillars: Alipay; the payment app Alipay Wallet; the money market fund Yu E Bao; the third-party financial services platform Zhao Cai Bao; micro-loan provider Ant Micro; and MYBank, a private bank that was allowed by the government to open in September.

Chen wrote on WeChat that he will join Ant Financial in November.

Joining Ant Financial is a “rational decision,” Chen added in the post. He said he expected to contribute his research ability to the company because Ant Financial is cooperating with financial regulators on studies of new financial services and products.

“There is a great perspective of inclusive finance in the age of the Internet and digital technology because it offers investment instruments to the public while reducing smaller companies’ financing costs,” Chen said. “It is very meaningful.”

Chen is also research director of Cheung Kong’s Asset Pricing Research Center. He earned a PhD in finance from the University of Toronto, spent many years teaching in the United States. He has focused on studying asset valuation and price fluctuations in the stock and bond markets.

But ince the launch of Yu E Bao, the Alipay money market product that was launched in October 2013, Chen has paid more attention to studying internet finance. Yu E Bao was managing some 500 billion yuan within its first six months, prompting Chen to write in a March article that e-investment products like Yu E Bao will play an important role in the country’s interest rate liberalization reform.

Alibaba held a record US$ 25 billion initial public offering in New York in September. None of its financial service assets were included in the listed company, but rather put under the umbrella of Ant Financial.

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