Eric Jing is the Chairman and CEO of Ant Financial. He earned a bachelor degree in engineering from Shanghai Jiao Tong University and an EMBA degree from the University of Minnesota. He previously worked with Swire Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola. Eric Jing joined Alibaba in 2007 and worked successively as Senior Director and Vice President, in charge of financial and operational management and Alipay as CFO in September 2009. Since joining Ant Financial in 2014, he has successively held the roles of COO, President, and CEO devoting energies to promoting financial inclusion, balanced and green development and serving millions of SMEs and consumers by means of technology.
1. How do you see fintech contributing to green finance development? Are there any concrete examples you can point out?
Technology can help transform finance and make significant contributions to our society. Through the power of technology, financial services are becoming more inclusive, transparent and equitable, benefiting remote areas and small-and-micro enterprises (SMEs).
For example, even in places as remote as Mount Everest, Tibetan herdsman at base camps 5200m above sea level can easily make use of mobile payments. Whether in border towns or snowy highlands, people can enjoy the same technological benefits as those in major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. Technology has bridged the development gap between different regions.
It is difficult and complex for SMEs around the world to access financial services, but this worldwide challenge can be tackled with technology. With the help of the mobile internet, artificial intelligence and other technologies, we have developed credit scoring and risk management system for SMEs. For example, MYbank pioneered the “310 model” in SME financing – a business loan that takes less than 3 minutes to apply for via a mobile phone, less than 1 second to approve—requiring zero human intervention. As of the end of 2018, MYbank and its predecessor Ant Small Loan have served more than 13 million SMEs and provided them more than 2 trillion RMB in loans.
The technology has also started to be applied to the field of green finance. The journey has just begun, and there are huge opportunities and great potential.
Two years ago, we launched Ant Forest in Alipay app, with the purpose of turning public awareness about the environment and nature into a form of green lifestyle that can be practiced every day. For example, we encourage people to choose public transit services instead of driving to reduce carbon emission, an action that can be converted to green points. After users accumulate a certain number of points, we will plant a real tree in Northwest China on their behalf. This innovation has attracted over 400 million users in just two years, reduced carbon emission by more than 3.08 million metric tons, planted and maintained 55.52 million trees and set up 69,000 Chinese acres of reserved lands. Now, Ant Forest has become the world’s largest platform for individuals participating in environmental governance. Hundreds of millions of mobile internet users can monitor their trees through Alipay in real time.
Besides combating desertification and protecting the environment, we are also exploring how to help local farmers earn more from the green economy. We hope to increase farmers’ income not only by planting trees, but also by developing organic agricultural products and working with our partners to help them connect with e-commerce platforms directly. We have also tried to bring users of Ant Forest and under-developed regions together by upgrading from an environment protection platform to a poverty relief platform in 2018. This exploration is on its way.
In addition to Ant Forest, Alipay has also launched a waste classification and recycling platform. With a few taps on smartphones, someone will come to your home and collect your unwanted items, including waste paper and waste plastics. It is as easy as sending deliveries. So far, the project covers 14 cities in China, and more that 30,000 residential communities in Shanghai alone. We hope to integrate the urban sanitation system and renewable resource system with “Internet plus” technology to generate results that benefit residents, industries, and the urban environment.
Alipay is also continuing to explore new recycling services, such as the recycling of used appliances, clothes, and books. With technology, it is easy for ordinary people to stick to a low-carbon, environment-friendly lifestyle. We are exciting to see these new updates, and we firmly believe that the journey has just begun, and with the power of technology for good, we can achieve more in future.
2. What are three trends ahead for fintech that will encourage and reinforce sustainable development?
First, technological development has led to a new business model, the platform model. It utilizes technology as a service to support innovation and product development, which helps more organizations serve users better, improving efficiency and vitality, and promoting overall societal advancement.
Second, using technology to transform finance, we can continuously promote inclusive development, which includes three aspects:
1) Financial technology helps serve people more broadly. As mobile payment penetrates into all provinces in China, we have taken the first step to help balanced and inclusive development across different regions. In the future, payment will not be the only service. From the supply side, wealth management, insurance, and loans will also provide everyone available, convenient, affordable, and highly secure financial services.
2) We are committed to building a credit system for SMEs with data and establishing their credit profiles, which would provide long term financial services to them. In the past, even hiring an accountant has been difficult for SMEs. Now with credit profiles and mobile services, SMEs will have free virtual chief financial officers, so that they can better operate their businesses. As the cornerstone of social economic development and the “capillaries” in the economy system, SMEs can create a large number of new jobs and are key components in GDP growth. It is important to provide inclusive services to them.
3) Innovation has just triggered the development of green finance. In the future, we will find more ways to cultivate green industry with innovations.
Finally, combining finance and technology will not only help provide inclusive financial products and services, but also bring us new tools and capabilities to manage risks and guide us to a more secure and sustainable future.
Nowadays, financial technology is widely used in risk prevention and management before, during, and after risky events. It helps us to comprehensively identify, judge, handle, and resolve risks, to understand general risk situations of all regions and industries from multi-perspectives in real time, and to generate thorough insights on these risks.
3. Which of your accomplishments at Ant Financial are you most proud of to date?
If we can say that we have made some accomplishments in the areas of inclusive finance and green finance, without doubt, these achievements have been with the help of our partners and the public sector.
During the past 14 years, what we value most are not those accomplishments, but adhering to our mission and vision. Technology must serve ordinary people and SMEs in the world, helping them resolve real pain points and bring the world equal opportunities. Technology should benefit the whole of society and make financial services more inclusive, transparent, easy-to-use, secure, and credible.
Beyond that, wherever in the world, we are committed to being a legitimate and transparent company, respecting local laws and keeping efficient corporate governance. These are the keys to our sustainable development.
4. Ant Forest is an app that allows users to earn virtual points toward planting a real tree by engaging in environmentally friendly behavior. It has over 400 million participants leading to over 55.5 million trees being planted. Do you think that “gamifying”sustainability – as Ant has done successfully — can lead to lasting behavioral change?
Ant Forest originates from our vision. We believe that we will have a future that is green, and that people’s lifestyle should be environmentally friendly. Today, the progress that we have made is encouraging.
We hope that Ant Forest is a seed that inspires more people to participate in the development of green industry with innovative ideas and technologies, promotes the improvement of our environment, and helps sustainable development in the future.
The internet is characterized by innovation and iteration. Today, Ant Forest is evolving from an action platform to a poverty relief platform. I am proud of the young people on our team. They are constantly upgrading and iterating the product, which helps us benefit more and more people.
That’s why even though it is just an experiment, as an open platform, Ant Forest has the potential to bring together more businesses, private organizations, and individuals in China to engage. We also hope for more Ant Forest-like projects to be developed to encourage more people to care about and take actions to protect our environment.
5. As a leader in green fintech, how do you advocate living a low carbon lifestyle in your daily life?
The crucial way to live a green and low-carbon lifestyle not only lies in holding the belief in our hearts, but also just as importantly, in taking actions. That’s why platforms like Alipay are making the environment protection behaviors of ordinary people more feasible and convenient by cultivating such habits in their daily lives.
For example, once our environmental behaviors can be converted to green points in Ant Forest, people become more interested and are more likely to collect these points, which eventually translate into a physically planted tree. As for me personally, I am a fan of our products. When I get up every morning, the first thing is to open Ant Forest in Alipay app and collect my green points. I am proud to say that I have planted real trees in the desert with my points!
Like many friends, I often use online payment services and online public services, including paying the utility bill for my family and bike-sharing services on some weekends. I have also used Alipay’s Mini Program to recycle useless goods in my home.
I am very happy to see that Alipay has become an action platform to support living a green lifestyle.