The financial affiliate of Chinese e-commerce conglomerate Alibaba has launched MYbank, an online lender targeting the country's small- and medium-sized businesses.
Owned by Alibaba affiliate Zhejiang Ant Small & Micro Financial Services Group, the new venture is one of six private firms to be granted a banking license as part of a plan by the government to boost competition in the financial services market. Alibaba's rival, Tencent, opened its WeBank service in January.
With four billion yuan of registered capital and offering loans of up to five million yuan (around $800,000), "MYbank is here to give affordable loans for small and micro enterprises, and we are here to provide banking services, not for the rich, but for the little guys," executive chairman Eric Jing told Reuters.
The bank still needs regulatory approval before it can start taking deposits. Currently customers need to open accounts in person but MYbank hopes that the rules will be relaxed enabling it to use facial recognition software to carry out the process virtually.
Alibaba built an inhouse cloud-based banking platform for MYBank, eschewing products from US technology firms that have angered authorities in Beijing. While many of the country's top banks use technology from IBM, Oracle and EMC, the Chinese government is actively promoting a policy dubbed 'IOE-out', in the wake of allegations that US agencies planted backdoors in American tech exports to snoop on overseas targets.