Ant Group's headquarters in Hangzhou, China. Image credit: Ant Group
Ant Group’s initial public offering (IPO) is poised to make history as the world’s largest after the company announced it is looking to raise $34.5 billion in new funds. Should the IPO go off without a hitch, the company would become one of the world's highest-valued tech firms.
Ant Group plans to list its shares in both Shanghai and Hong Kong to attract both Chinese and global investors. The company is slated to begin trading in Hong Kong on November 5 but is yet to announce the date of its debut in Shanghai.
But what is Ant Group? The Chinese fintech giant was created in 2004 as Alipay, an escrow service within e-commerce retailer Alibaba. Alipay quickly grew in the digital payments space and in 2014 it was spun into its own company, called Ant Financial, which was renamed to Ali Group in July 2020.
Ant Group continues to use the Alipay name for its digital payment platform, which handles more yearly transactions than Mastercard and Visa. Alipay has since grown beyond payments and its app also helps users invest in mutual funds, buy insurance, obtain loans, find deals from local businesses, and get Covid-19 updates.
The company was founded by billionaire tech tycoon Jack Ma, who remains Ant Group’s main shareholder, the company is run by a team of Alibaba and fintech veterans including CEO Simon Xiaoming Hu. An early Alipay employee, Hu joined the fintech giant in 2006 and has held a wide range of positions, including a 4-year stint at Alibaba Cloud, as he worked his way to the top of the company. Before Alipay, Hu cut his teeth in the banking world and held positions at the Huzhou Branch of China Construction Bank Corporation and the Hangzhou Branch of China Everbright Bank.
The company’s CFO, Cyril Han, stepped into his role in April 2020, possibly in anticipation of the company’s IPO. Han initially joined Ant Group in 2014 and has severed as Senior Director and Vice President. He is a former investment banker who also has experience at Alibaba, he made the jump from investment banking to Alibaba in 2011 as a Senior Director within the e-commerce giant’s corporate finance department.
Xingjun Ni is another Alipay veteran within the leadership of Ant Group. Ni serves as Ant Group’s Chief Technology Officer, a well-earned position as he helped to develop the early versions of Alipay. Since joining the company in 2004, Ni has gone on to serve as a developer, product architect, head of platform product, head of product technology of the business group. As the man behind Ant Group’s tech, Ni commands a great deal of power and influence in the fintech industry as a whole as the company continues to make waves, as this month the company launched new a blockchain-backed smart contract platform for cross-border trade.
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