Internet search giant Baidu and China Citic Bank have received regulatory approval to launch a direct banking joint venture offering loans and deposit accounts to Chinese consumers.
Baidu is looking to emulate the success of local e-commerce groups Tecncent and Alibaba, which have both opened online banks following the relaxation of bank licensing rules by Chinese authorities in 2015.
China Citic and Baidu have invested $313.34 million in cash as registered capital for the venture, in which Baidu will own 30%. Initially named Baixin Bank when the plans were first reported in 2015, the branding has shifted with the prevailing tide and will now launch as aiBank, reflecting a penchant for the use of artificial intelligence in running the business.
In a statement, Baidu says: “AI is the core element of the bank’s branding, and the bank will offer a spate of innovative services by riding on Baidu’s technology in AI and massive amounts of data."