Who will be the Alibaba of the West in FinTech?

Ant Financial, the digital payments arm of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, has announced its intention to acquire venerable US money transfer company…

Ant Financial, the digital payments arm of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, has announced its intention to acquire venerable US money transfer company MoneyGram for a bit under $1 billion, pending regulatory approval. This reminded me of a recent meeting I had at a leading digital consulting firm, when the conversation turned to the topic of what company will be the Alibaba of the West (for those of you who have not been keeping close tabs on developments in the wild, weird, wonderful world of the Chinese internet, China has the world’s largest and, by many measures, most advanced internet economy – certainly when it comes to the sophistication and adoption of consumer-focused FinTech services like digital payments). Who would succeed in replicating Alibaba’s model in mature economies like the US – would it be Apple? Facebook? Google? Or some startup few have heard of that will become a household name in 18 months’ time? My response, only partially in jest, was that the company most likely to become the “Alibaba of the West” may well be Alibaba. In light of the proposed acquisition of MoneyGram, this scenario no longer feels even partially risible.

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