WeLab wins virtual bank license

WeLab Digital was granted the fourth virtual bank licence by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, the only homegrown bank among the four.

Gary Poon

Thursday, April 11, 2019

WeLab Digital was granted the fourth virtual bank licence by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, the only homegrown bank among the four.

"According to its business plan, WeLab Digital intends to launch its services within six to nine months. The HKMA is making good progress in processing the remaining four shortlisted virtual bank applications," HKMA said in a statement.

William Leung Wing-cheung, former chief executive officer of Sun Hung Kai Financial, and Ceajer Chan Ka-keung, former secretary for financial services and the treasury, will be the chief executive and chairman of WeLab virtual bank.

Chan said: "Virtual banking heralds a new stage of development for Hong Kong banking and fintech. As chairman of WeLab Digital, I will lead the team to build on WeLab's success, leading with technology to promote financial inclusion."

Using its core philosophy of being Instant, Interactive and Intelligent, WeLab will use artificial intelligence, big data and machine learning and other leading technologies to design and build products and services to bring a new digital experience to the public.

Simon Loong Pui-chi, founder and chief executive of WeLab, said the virtual bank will continue to leverage advanced fintech capabilities and experienced leadership team to revolutionize the banking experience for customers, with the aim of providing more convenient and diversified retail banking services and products.

"As a Hong Kong homegrown innovator and fintech company, we believe that the license is validation and recognition of our innovative mindset and proven fintech capabilities," he said.

WeLab, founded in 2013, operates two lending platforms - WeLend and WoLaiDai in Hong Kong and China - and jointly operates the Indonesian lending platform, AWDA. The fintech firm uses big-data technology to conduct credit assessment but failed to apply for listing on the stock market in January.

According to company documents, the revenue and profit of WeLab are US$155.1 million (HK$1.2 billion) and US$17.69 million in 2017 respectively while the firm lost US$24.77 million and US$13.524 million in 2016 and 2015 respectively.

The investors of WeLab includes CK Hutchison's Tom Group (2383), Malaysia's Khazanah Nasional Berhad, ING Bank, China Construction Bank (International), World Bank's International Finance Corp, Sequoia Capital, and the Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund.

The three other virtual banks are Livi VB, mainly owned by Bank of China (Hong Kong); SC Digital Solutions, mainly owned by Standard Chartered, and ZhongAn Virtual Finance, mainly owned by ZhongAn Online.