Ant Financial Launches Blockchain-Based Remittance Service, Jack Ma Calls Bitcoin Potential Bubble

Alibaba’s Ant Financial launched a blockchain-based money remittance service for transfers from Hong Kong to the Philippines.

Ant Financial, the fintech subsidiary of Jack Ma’s Alibaba, launched a cross-border money remittance solution based on distributed ledger technology after it failed to buy MoneyGram due to the intervention of US regulators. At the launch event in Hong Kong, billionaire Jack Ma praised blockchain technology and found the occasion to warn that Bitcoin might be a bubble.

“Blockchain technology could change our world more than people imagine. Bitcoin however could be a bubble,” he told media reporters.

Ant Financial claims its blockchain-powered remittance solution is the first of its kind. Used with the AlipayHK wallet, the service will be initially used for transfer between Hong Kong and Philippines residents. Currently, over 180,000 Filipinos are working in Hong Kong, which constitutes the largest community in the city. Each year, they send large amounts of money home, making them dependent on cross-border transfer services. In 2016, it was estimated that Filipinos working in Hong Kong remitted the equivalent of US$ 561 million to their home. As of today, remittance providers in the city charge up to HK$ 18 or US$ 2.3 per transaction.

Jack Ma was concerned about the high fees charged by banks and financial institutions for overseas transfers and said he wanted to help people to remit even 1 cent almost free of charge.

“At the time we wanted to [buy] MoneyGram and overhaul it to help people all over the world solve this issue. Due to reasons from the US our deal with MoneyGram did not succeed, so I said, ‘Let’s make one better [than MoneyGram]’ that uses the most advanced technology,” Alibaba's co-founder noted.

Jack Ma added that the potential impact of blockchain would be much greater than we can imagine. 

Ant’s new service involves UK-based banking giant Standard Chartered, which acts as a settlement bank for transactions, and GCash. The solution will allow AlipayHK wallet users to transfer funds to users of GCash, the mobile money and wallet solution run by Filipino Globe Telecom, which has eight million users in the home country.

At the beginning of the month, Ant Financial announced that it would go through significant transformations, with the focus on emerging technologies such as blockchain.