Mary Grace (left), who has been working in Hong Kong for 22 years, demonstrates a transfer of money to her family back in the Philippines using Ant Financial's mobile payment app Alipay. Photo: Business Wire

Jack Ma attended the Hong Kong launch of a blockchain-based cross-border remittance service that will be managed by a subsidiary of the billionaire businessman’s Alibaba Group.

The service from Ma’s Ant Financial group via its online payment app Alipay, is in partnership with Philippines digital micropayment platform GCash and Standard Chartered Bank. The platform primarily processes transactions between hundreds of thousands of Filipinos working in Hong Kong and their families back in the Philippines.

Personal remittances from overseas workers are a significant source of income for the Filipino economy and, according to World Bank data, make up more than 10% of the nation’s GDP. Last year, according to the Philippines government, they exceeded $30 billion with more than $500 million coming from Hong Kong.

Ant Financial says its new digital wallet remittance platform offers a secure and almost-instant service that will, eventually, cut the cost of cross-border remittances to near-zero.

Ant Financial formed in 2014 and since then has established a network of global mobile financial service partners for the Alipay platform. It now claims a client base of approximately 870 million global users and also 15 million small PRC-based businesses. Ant says the remittance platform, currently focused on Hong Kong-Philippines trade, will eventually become a global service.

Jack Ma, who is Ant Financial’s controlling shareholder, used the launch event to offer strong support for blockchain technology while speaking cautiously about Bitcoin.

“It is… not right to become rich overnight by betting on blockchain,” said Ma, according to the Wall Street Journal. “Technology itself isn’t the bubble, but bitcoin likely is.” Ma added that while blockchain can be used to “solve data privacy, security and sustainability issues” crypto-currencies are becoming “tools and concepts for making money.”

Jack Ma claims his Alibaba Group, launched in 1999, will have two billion customers and 10 million businesses within 20 years. The online trading group, which clears around $550 million a day in revenue, owns more blockchain patents than any other company on the planet. In May, Alibaba launched a blockchain-based Food Trust Framework to target food fraud that it said cost industry $40 billion a year.

Up until the establishment of Food Trust Framework, all of Alibaba’s 49 blockchain patents had a financial focus, and belonged to Ant Financial.

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