Alibaba debuts mobile fund platform in new fintech push

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has launched its mobile wealth management app, which will distribute nearly 900 mutual funds. It comes just days after rival Tencent announced its own WeBank app launch.
Alibaba debuts mobile fund platform in new fintech push

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has made a fresh push into the financial technology (fintech) world with the launch of its mobile wealth management platform.

Alibaba’s financial services arm Ant Financial has debuted the app in an attempt to provide an easier route into mainland China’s fund products for the average investor.

It comes just days after major technology rival Tencent launched its own fund sales platform through its new private internet bank's mobile app.

Ant Financial yesterday launched its app, dubbed Ant Fortune, which will distribute nearly 900 mutual funds.

The wealth management mobile platform embeds two existing products - Yu’EBao and ZhaoCaiBao - offered by Ant Financial. It has also teamed up with Shumi Fund - an Alibaba-affiliated third-party online fund distributor based in Hangzhou - to offer nearly 900 mutual fund products from about 80 Chinese fund companies.

AsianInvestor found that not all of the 900 funds are currently open for subscription, and Ant Financial did not confirm the number of funds which were available for purchase.

The platform was launched three days after Tencent offered an online fund sales platform through WeBank, its new private internet bank. But in contrast to WeBank, Ant Fortune requires investors to have an account on Alipay, Alibaba’s mobile payment system, in order to make purchases.

Both platforms market themselves as charging no upfront subscription fees, but they do levy redemption fees. Ant Fortune charges 0.5% in redemption fees for any investment less than 365 days old, while WeBank waives redemption fees for investments over 180 days old but charges 1.5% fees for any investments under seven days old. 

“Ant Fortune aims to provide investment options for those who are left out by the current wealth management products by lowering the entry threshold, and for those who have little time or know-how to grow wealth,” Leiming Yuan, general manager of Ant Financial’s wealth management unit, said in a statement yesterday.

Yuan said the firm is also planning to offer Hong Kong funds on Ant Fortune through the new mutual recognition scheme, which allows mainland Chinese investors to invest globally.

In line with analysts’ expectations for WeBank, Ant Financial plans to use scenario-based services and big data when designing the app’s new features. The firm will use its data bank, analysing users’ investment demands and risk appetite when recommending fund products and providing other services such as investor education.

Ant Financial first teamed up with mainland fund house Tianhong Asset Management to launch Yu’EBao in mid-2013, and has since become China’s largest money market fund with a total AUM of Rmb613 billion ($95.8 billion) as of the end of June.

In April 2014, the firm launched ZhaoCaiBao, a fixed-term wealth management product platform linked to funds, insurance policies and SME loans. It has clocked up total sales of Rmb260 billion since its inception.

Apart from Ant Fortune, the firm is also offering Taobao LiCai, a mutual fund sales platform under e-commerce website Taobao. It has built a partnership with Shumi Fund and 31 mainland fund companies, according to its website.

Chinese fund investors have been increasingly using e-commerce platforms to buy funds. About 11% of individual investors said they bought mutual funds via Taobao and Baidu because of the convenience, lower fees, and more product choice, according to a survey by the Asset Management Association of China (Amac), which was released last month.

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