Mobile lender WeLab has become the fourth - and first homegrown - applicant to be granted one of Hong Kong's new virtual banking licenses.
The firm expects to launch its virtual bank within the next nine months after following Livi VB Limited, SC Digital Solutions Limited and ZhongAn Virtual Finance in securing a license from the Hong Kong Monetary Authority.
Founded in 2013, WeLab operates in the B2B and B2C markets in Hong Kong but also has consumer finance operations in Mainland China and Indonesia.
In 2017 the company scored a $220 million equity and debt financing round joined by blue chips such as Alibaba, Credit Suisse, and the World Bank's International Finance Corporation. Dutch giant ING is also an investor.
With its new virtual banking license, the outfit will now enter the Hong Kong retail banking market, using AI, machine learning and big data to help it operate on what it calls the philosophy of the '3I' - instant, interactive and intelligent.
Simon Loong, CEO, WeLab, says: "WeLab will fully dedicate its resources to provide seamless digital financial services built for the customer, leveraging on the proven track record, cumulative knowledge and experience over the last six years."
Meanwhile, the HKMA says that it is making "good progress" in processing the remaining four shortlisted virtual bank applications.