Alipay operator Ant Financial Services Group plans to support 10 million small and mid-sized European businesses over the coming five years, enabling them to better serve global consumers and travelers.

Chief Executive Eric Jing revealed the plan at the Alipay Partners Global Summit in London, Xinhua News Agency reported.

He said the Hangzhou-based company will deepen cooperation with French e-payment services provider Worldline so vendors in Europe can accept payments from other Asian e-wallets via point-of-sales systems.

China’s outbound tourists totaled almost 150 million in 2018, up 14.7% from a year earlier, according to official Chinese data. Some 11% of them flocked to Europe, making the continent the second-most popular destination after Asia, according to Trip.com, formerly known as Ctrip.

Mobile payments overtook cash for the first time among Chinese globetrotters last year, Alipay pointed out in a report earlier this year. Access to Alipay had boosted both store traffic and operating revenues, according to nearly 60% of the overseas merchants surveyed.

With 900 million active users in China, Alipay has also introduced localized versions in nine countries and regions around the world in cooperation with e-wallet service providers in countries such as South Korea and Thailand, collectively serving 1.2 billion users worldwide, according to data Jing disclosed in September.

Five years ago, Ant Financial didn’t exist. Today, it’s one of the largest financial institutions in the world, according to Applico.

Ant, an affiliate of Alibaba Group, is now 50% bigger than Goldman Sachs. Ant’s most recent valuation came in at US$150 billion, compared to Goldman Sach’s US$99 billion.

Ant Financial CEO Eric Jing said the Hangzhou-based company will deepen cooperation with French e-payment services provider Worldline so vendors in Europe can accept payments from other Asian e-wallets via point-of-sales systems. Credit: Handout.

While some may say Ant Financial operates in a larger market, and therefore larger scale is to be expected, this doesn’t explain Ant’s runaway growth within the Chinese market that has long-standing banks gnashing their teeth.

The key to Ant’s growth lies in its platform business model. This model starts with Alipay.

Similar to Paypal, Alipay processes payments between any two users, whether they’re shoppers and small businesses, roommates, or street performers and commuters. Alipay completed over US$8 trillion in transactions in 2017 – that’s equivalent to 65% of China’s GDP.

In a cross-selling move that is as old as business itself, Ant Financial also offers other financial services through ecosystems for insurance, credit, loans, credit scoring, and wealth management to that captive audience.

What’s interesting about Ant Financial is how it has managed to mine gold from its Alipay customer base and use that data to create multiple interlocking platform businesses in financial services.

It combines this platform approach in everything from payments and lending to insurance and investing with its linear microlending and microinvesting. This hybrid approach combines complimentary platform and linear services to create a financial services ecosystem of unparalleled breadth.

Alipay isn’t Ant’s only financial services platform. It also owns and operates an open insurance marketplace with over 80 insurance companies on the platform that reaches over 400 million users.

Meanwhile, Ant Fortune has democratized asset management and retirement planning. All of China’s 116 mutual fund managers are on the platform that reaches 180 million users.

Most importantly, the platform’s algorithm recommends funds based on each user’s financial profile and goals, thereby closing financial literacy gaps that in the past may have prevented many users from investing.