Hong Kong's WeLab raises $156 million as virtual bank launch approaches

Hong Kong's WeLab raises $156 million as virtual bank launch approaches

Months after scooping one of Hong Kong's new virtual banking licences, mobile lender WeLab has raised US$156 million of Series C strategic financing to further build out its proposition.

The financing round drew the backing of new investors as well as five existing investors, including Alibaba Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund and China Construction Bank.

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 is preparing to 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.

The firm has set itself three near-term targets for growth: to launch WeLab Bank in 2020; further expand China’s B2B business partners to over 1000 and to offer its proprietary privacy computing solutions to enterprises on the cloud platform in 2H 2020; to enter another South East Asia market beyond Indonesia within the next two years.

Simon Loong, founder and group CEO of WeLab, says: “With technological advancement, fintech has gradually been integrated into our daily lives over the last decade, transforming the traditional world of banking as we know it. 2020 marks the inflection point where the calls for supervision and governance are necessary, starting with regulated digital banks.”

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