eric jing singapore fintech festival
In this article

Singapore’s growth as a fintech hub has drawn the attention of Ant Group, the operators of the world’s largest mobile payment platform, AliPay. The platform features over 1.3 billion users and boasts a controlling share in China’s mobile payments market. 

Earlier in September, Ant Group opened a new office in Singapore, which will now serve as the headquarters for its international unit. Accompanying the launch, the company is rolling out an expansion strategy with an aim to help global merchants engage digitally with customers in Asia and beyond. 

Commenting on the reasons why Singapore was chosen as the expansion hub, Ant Group CEO Eric Jing mentions the timezone proximity and the company’s pre-existing teams in the country. 

“We are seeing the rising adoption of digital technology in ASEAN countries and that presents huge potential. [There’s also a] favourable and transparent policy environment which is very critical. So that’s a couple of reasons,” Jing adds.

As part of Ant Group’s expansion, the company has also joined hands with the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) under the Project Guardian umbrella and is testing a treasury management solution. This will enable real-time multi-currency clearance and settling using tokenised deposits.

At the Singapore Fintech Festival 2023, Jing sat down with MAS’ Chief Fintech Officer Sopnendu Mohanty to discuss the growth of AliPay and the prospect of going global.

Revolutionising payments in China

Established in 2004, AliPay played a significant role in China’s digital payments revolution. It propelled the use of QR codes in the country, which have since become the most popular form of mobile payment.

“We were looking at two options: barcodes or QR codes,” recalls Jing. This was back in 2011 when the company first began making headways in digital payments. 

alipay qr
Image Credits: China Daily

At the time, the standard in developed countries was credit cards and point-of-sale systems. For China, however, this wouldn’t be an ideal solution. Getting the entire country to shift to such a system would entail a long and expensive process.

As such, Ant Group recognised an opportunity to facilitate payments through mobile phones — a simpler and cheaper alternative given that smartphone adoption in China was already on the rise. “We could make [payments] very easy for small vendors, mom-and-pop shops, everyone,” Jing says. 

The company decided to opt for QR codes as they can store more information than barcodes and are easier to scan. Since then, merchants have been able to easily accept cashless payments in China. It simply involves generating a QR code using Alipay and putting it up for customers to scan. 

Solving global problems

Looking beyond China today, Ant Group is exploring the use of new technologies to drive financial innovation. “Everyone’s talking about AI, [distributed ledger technology], and blockchain. [We’re always trying to figure out] how to use technology to make big changes,” Jing says. 

Ant Group has taken a particular interest in developing privacy-preserving computing. This involves allowing data to be processed while preserving its confidentiality. For example, an internet user might want to find out about restaurants near them without giving a search engine free access to their location details.

ant group singapore
Ant Group is increasing its investment in privacy-preserving computing technology in Singapore. This includes a research initiative in collaboration with NTU, announced this July / Image Credits: Ant Group

Privacy-preserving computing would make this possible. Search engines would be able to process location-based data, however, they wouldn’t have access to sell it or use it for other purposes. 

Jing mentions that Ant Group has been looking into bringing down the cost of privacy-preserving computing closer to that of normal computing. This would have great implications on the future of privacy in the digital world. 

As AI technology broadens the capabilities of data analytics, the value and usefulness of data is expanding with it. Companies have a lot to gain from data collection, whether it’s for targeted advertising, UX development, or customer retention. With this in mind, bad actors might also be incentivised to steal and sell data, more so than ever before. 

Privacy-preserving computing would help users enjoy the benefits of AI analytics and big data while curbing the associated security risks. 

Lessons for startups

Finally, Jing moves on to shed some light into the work culture that has allowed Ant Group to prosper so far. “We’re always trying to create an environment where everyone is equal and everyone can inspire others,” he says.

With that in mind, he acknowledges that there’s still a need for leaders to filter through the noise and make the tough decisions. “After listening to many different voices and brainstorming, at the end of the day, you have to make a decision.” 

eric jing ant group ceo
Eric Jing is the CEO of Ant Group / Image Credits: IUCN

The goal isn’t to make a decision which satisfies everyone, only to ensure that it is sufficiently informed and takes multiple viewpoints into account. 

For startups making their way up the ranks today, Jing believes that purpose should be the central driving factor. “What’s the problem you are going to solve?” — that’s the main question Jing would like answered from any startup pitching to him.  

Along with this, Jing also gives value to the energy and character of the startup founder. “[It’s important to] consider whether we are complementary, [such that] by working together we can really make things happen.” 

Featured Image Credit: Singapore Fintech Festival 2023

Also Read: More merchants are now accepting Alipay+ in S’pore – here’s a look at what it’s about

Subscribe to our newsletter

Stay updated with Vulcan Post weekly curated news and updates.


Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)

Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)