Payments observers wondering when, and where, blockchain technology would take hold may want to pay close attention to cross-border remittances. Alipay Payment Services (HK) Ltd. said on Monday that it has launched a mobile-wallet based money-transfer service between Hong Kong and the Philippines using a blockchain backbone.
The service, which works with the digital wallet GCash from the Philippines-based Globe Telecom, allows streamlined remittances between individuals, according to the release. In particular, it is aimed at Filipinos residing in Hong Kong who want to send money home. “What used to be a long process of physically going to a remittance booth, queuing in line for hours, and filling out forms, is now easily and securely done over the mobile phone in just a few seconds,” said Jennifer Tan, chief executive of AlipayHK, in a statement.
Among the new service’s advantages is that its distributed ledger allows operators to verify and process transactions simultaneously, Alipay says. Standard Chartered Bank is providing the banking links, the company says. Users may also track payments as they occur.
China’s Ant Financial Services Group and its Alipay online-payments service have been working on blockchain technology since 2015, and clearly plans further investment in the technology. “Blockchain is revolutionizing the remittance industry, and we look forward to further innovating and expanding the application of the technology in global remittances, together with local wallet partners and other ecosystem partners,” said Eric Jing, executive chairman and chief executive of Ant Financial, in a statement.
Ant Financial, best known in North America as a major provider of mobile-payments services through its Alipay unit, made a big play for global remittance capability last year with an $880 million offer to acquire MoneyGram International Inc. Ant called the deal off early in January after running into resistance from the U.S government. Under the merger agreement’s terms, an Ant affiliate agreed to pay a $30-million termination fee to MoneyGram.
Nor is the Hong Kong-to-the Philippines transfer service the first effort to harness blockchain for cross-border remittances. Ripple, a San Francisco-based provider of distributed-ledger-based payments platforms, said in April that five payments services overseas had signed on to use the company’s xVia application programming interface. The API works with Ripple’s RippleNet network to speed transfers, cut operational costs, and increase operators’ visibility into payments, Ripple said.
Worldwide, Alipay claims 870 million active users for its payments services. Ant Financial, which this month raised about $14 billion in new funding, has been investigating technologies besides blockchain in recent years, including artificial intelligence and facial recognition. It introduced the latter capability in September through Alipay.