Ping An to launch mobile financial services platform

By Zhang Ye Source:Global Times Published: 2014-1-2 23:48:01

Graphics: GT

Ping An Insurance (Group) Company of China, the world's second-largest insurer by market value, plans to officially launch its mobile financial services platform before the upcoming Spring Festival, which falls on January 31 this year, news portal reported Thursday.

The platform, dubbed "Yiqianbao," mainly features online payment and social networking services and users can manage their money, and even their daily life, said the report, citing a New Year's address by the company's chairman Ma Mingzhe to his employees.

Yiqianbao will be accessible to users through an app and a website.

A customer service staff member from Yiqianbao told the Global Times Thursday that the official app is set to come online on January 16. Ping An could not be reached for comment Thursday.

While the rising Internet finance sector has already had a revolutionary influence on the traditional financial sector, Ping An continued its efforts to seek a balance between the two, said Ma, regarding Yiqianbao as a core mobile platform to serve Ping An's whole Internet-based financial ecosystem.

The beta version of Yiqianbao has been available on Apple's App Store since late November in 2013, allowing users to exchange texts, pictures, voice messages and money as well as pay online bills. It has not been released in the Android store yet.

From comments on the app showed in the App Store by press time, some users thought the design should be more user friendly, as they had thought that Yiqianbao could cooperate with more banks.

Currently the app only has ties with three banks - Ping An Bank, China Construction Bank and China Everbright Bank, but it will support more banks in the future, said the customer service staff.

Rival service Alipay, run by the country's e-commerce leader Alibaba, has partnerships with more than 180 banks in China and abroad at present, according to Alipay's official website.

Traditional financial institutions like Ping An have an edge over Internet companies in product popularization due to their many physical branches nationwide, but it is too late for the former to enter the already fiercely competitive mobile Internet payment sector, Wang Weidong, an online payment analyst with iResearch, told the Global Times Thursday.

China's mobile payment market is expected to surpass 800 billion yuan ($132.2 billion) in 2013, five times that of 2012, according to a report released by the Payment and Clearing Association of China in November.

"Although the mobile Internet payment market is promising and booming, it has already been predominantly controlled by Alipay, which has a fairly huge user base of 100 million," noted Wang.

Data from iResearch showed that Alipay's mobile payment service accounted for 78.4 percent of the market in the third quarter of 2013, followed by Lakala with 11.5 percent and Tenpay with 4.2 percent.

Yiqianbao can target the customers and employees of Ping An in the short term, Feng Lin, an analyst at China E-Commerce Research Center, told the Global Times Thursday.

According to its official website, the company's business covers banking, insurance and investment, provides related services to 80 million customers and had 749,000 employees by the end of June 2013. 

But whether it could boost its profile in the sector is determined by how many people it is able to attract from its powerful competitors, Wang from iResearch said, noting it is very hard, as users tend to be very loyal to the online payment platform they have chosen due to safety concern.

"I have never heard of Yiqianbao or any Internet-based financial services provided by Ping An. Despite Ping An having its own banking business, I still cannot put trust in the company when it comes to online payment service," Yuan Ziyang, a Beijing resident, told the Global Times.

"But I will consider paying small-scale bills via WeChat in the future," Yuan said.

Wang said he believes it will be easier for Internet company Tencent to popularize its instant messaging app WeChat's payment services, as WeChat has a large user base of over 600 million.

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