China has made suggestions that they want to become a fintech world epicenter, just as the United Kingdom and the United States have recently, but they seem to contradict themselves in some aspects. If they’re going to excel in any department of fintech, cryptocurrency would probably be the most expected route. This is mainly because the People’s Bank of China, their central bank, has been distributing their digital yuan currency recently and has seen mostly success with it, setting the stage and standard for the rest of the world. However, China has been tough on fintechs, specifically Alibaba, owned by Ant Group, and recently Tencent, to prevent them from becoming monopolistic companies and pressure to support the Communist Party’s agenda. Now, seemingly out of nowhere, Ant Group’s CEO Simon Hu has announced that he will be stepping down from his position and the company entirely. This will only add to the stress Ant Group is facing in their restructuring era of complying with China’s new strict regulations as they had to find someone quickly and qualified to take his place. While not entirely detailing the reason, Hu stated that he was stepping down due to personal reasons. After careful consideration, it has been decided that Eric Jing, Ant Group’s chairman, will take Hu’s place as CEO.
Hu’s contributions to not only the company, but China’s fintech as a whole should be celebrated during his departure. He joined the company in 2005 and is best known for innovations such as “using data analytics to offer collateral-free financing services to small businesses and helping Alibaba beat Amazon.com Inc. to build Asia’s largest cloud business”, from Fortune Magazine. While first starting out at Alibaba, he made the transition to Ant in 2018 and quickly became president of the company. However, the new regulations China is implementing has made the last few years in the position very challenging not just for Hu and Ant Group, but many other China fintechs as well. Ant Group had its initial public offering suspended back in November as there had to be a change in the regulatory environment. This along with a monsoon of other changes that must be made has resulted in Ant Group having to essentially overhaul their entire business. Michael Norris, who is a research manager at AgencyChina has stated that “Simon’s joining and departure at Ant were both closely related to the IPO. His leaving casts a cloud on the timeline of the listing.” Time will only tell if Jing is able to fill Hu’s shoes quickly and aid Ant Group in this massive overhaul, but it appears for the time being he is well equipped for the position.