Ant Financial Services Group, the payment affiliate of Alibaba, launched a health aid plan in China that has landed more than 50 million users.
According to a report in Reuters citing Ant Financial, the plan called Xiang Hu Bao, which means mutual protection in English, gives participants basic medical coverage with the risks and expenses shared by all the members. The plan is marketed on Alipay, its mobile payment app. It is extremely popular among China’s poor citizens who can’t afford medical services in the government’s healthcare system and aren’t served by traditional commercial insurers because they can’t afford the premiums and advanced payments required. Reuters noted that around 47 percent of the plan’s 50 million participants are migrant workers while 31 percent are from rural and county-level areas. Ant Financial is aiming to have 300 million customers using the healthcare plan within two years. The plan covers participants for 100 critical illnesses via a one-time payout of as much as $44,650. Ant Financial told Reuters the plan is “not a health insurance product,” which means it may not be regulated by the Chinese government.
The insurance product is just one of many areas Ant Financial is pursuing as it moves beyond being a mobile payment provider. The Chinese company has landed a range of licenses, giving it the ability to provide financial services such as online banking, insurance, microlending, and fund management in China. In March it hooked up with Jiangsu-based Hoperun Information Technology to launch its Distributed Core Banking Platform (DCBP) which helps financial firms move their business models to customer-oriented models and away from transaction-oriented models. The new banking platform is also designed to help financial firms contend with digital challenges such as distributed development, financial product management, and accounting liquidation. A month earlier in February, it inked a deal to acquire WorldFirst, the U.K. payments company, for $700 million. It was the biggest overseas deal for Ant Financial as it aims to expand in the U.K. and in the U.S.