Ant Financial grows out its AI

By David Tuckwell on Tuesday 20 June 2017

Alternative LendingSavings and Investment

Alibaba's financial services subsidiary has expanded its AI offering, but its unclear if the firm will enter developed markets.

Despite an AI focus and high valuation, it is unclear if Ant Financial will enter developed economies. 

Insurance claims in China will soon be processed by AI, meaning car crash victims can simply take a photo of the damage, send it to a robot and have their claim processed digitally.

This is the vision of Ant Financial, the financial services arm of Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba, which the firm claims will soon be a reality. 

Branded a fintech (the company rejects the term claiming they are a “techfin” company as to them technology comes first) Ant has been working to overhaul consumer finance in China and plans to use AI as its battering ram, a new report by MIT Technology Review has claimed. 

“A recent hire offers some measure of Ant’s intent to apply artificial intelligence to finance,” the report said. 

“This May the company announced that Michael Jordan, a professor at the University of Berkeley and a major figure in the field of machine learning and statistics, would become chair of the company’s scientific board.”

This view was confirmed by Alan Qi, the company’s top data scientist and former Purdue professor, in an interview with the publication. 

Despite a $75 billion valuation and 450 million active users, it is unclear if Ant will enter, and bring with it its AI platforms, to developed markets anytime soon. 

In an interview with the ABC, the company’s head of international operations Doug Feagin, said ambiguously “the developed markets we’ll need to assess as our strategy evolves.” To date, most of its acquisitions have been in the less developed economies of India, China and Thailand — all of which have a large mobile payments space. 

Ant also put in a US$1.2 billion bid for MoneyGram, the Texan money transfer company, which has operations in developed markets, particularly the US. The bid is pending regulatory approval. 

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