At the World Economic Forum in Davos, the CEO of Alipay’s parent group Ant Financial Eric Jing announced that the company has ambitions to expand globally, and has set a goal of 2 billion customers within the next decade.
With a current total of 450 million active Alipay users in its home market the 2 billion mark appears unrealistic, especially bearing in mind the slow adoption of most other alternative payment solutions with ambitions to compete in the global payments market. But while Ant Financial’s target might seem too ambitious, its recent moves provide an indication as to how it intends to succeed. Growth through acquisitions, a focus on domestic solutions in fast-growing payment markets, and targeting underserved segments appear to be the key elements of its growth strategy.
Key acquisitions Ant Financial has made over the past few years include Paytm in India and Lazada in Southeast Asia. And a few weeks after Jing announced Ant Financial’s plans the company sealed an $880m deal with MoneyGram International to acquire the international provider of remittance services. Although the acquisition will need approval from US regulators, it demonstrates the scope of Ant Financial’s global ambitions.
Another pattern is that rather than going after developed markets, Ant Financial is focusing on underserved consumers. This is a very different strategy from that deployed by Apple Pay and similar payment solutions, which depend on having phone penetration and payment infrastructure in place. There remains ample potential in the underserved segment of the global population, which is in need of new, convenient payment solutions. By targeting this segment Ant Financial is aiming to position the Alipay brand among a much bigger audience and open up new revenue opportunities as the segment develops.
By Arnie Cho, Senior Consumer Payments Analyst