To have one or two alumni in senior positions at arguably China’s hottest company, Alibaba, would make any institution proud. To have a third is the icing on the cake.
With the news that CKGSB Professor of Finance Chen Long is departing the school to take up the position this month of Chief Strategy Officer of Alibaba’s new financial services unit, Ant Financial, it shows just how highly regarded CKGSB’s faculty members are, and it means that CKGSB now has three figures with strong ties to the school at the Alibaba group.
Most famous of the trio, of course, is Alibaba founder and CEO Jack Ma, who was in CKGSB’s first CEO Class in 2006, studying alongside entrepreneurs including Fosun’s Guo Guangchang and Mengniu Dairy’s Niu Gensheng. Ma was taught by, among others, Zeng Ming, a Professor of Strategy at CKGSB and one of the founding faculty members of the school. Zeng was soon recruited by Alibaba, and has since January 2008 been the group’s Chief Strategy Officer.
Professor Chen (pictured above) now joins them, having spent four years of dedicated service at CKGSB, where his areas of research have included empirical asset pricing and applied asset pricing theory, corporate financing and payout decisions. Chen earned his Ph.D. in Finance from the University of Toronto in 2001, before receiving an Excellence in Teaching award in 2003 at Michigan State University where he served as Assistant Professor of Finance, and it has been the engaging nature of his teaching that has endeared him to CKGSB students over the past few years.
Chen also acted as Associate Dean of the DBA Program and Alumni Affairs, as well as the Director of Asset Valuation Center and the Internet-Big data-Finance Center at CKGSB. He leaves now for Alibaba, whose IPO raised a record US$ 25 billion when it listed on the NYSE in September, but, significantly, none of its financial service assets were included in the listed entity. Ant Financial, formed just one month later, now includes online payment service Alipay, payment app Alipay Wallet, money market fund Yu E Bao, third-party financial services platform Zhao Cai Bao, micro-loan provider Ant Micro and private bank MYBank, which was given government approval to open in September.
CKGSB Patron Li Ka-shing meets the CEO Class of 2006, including Jack Ma [footage courtesy of CCTV-2]
Of those six elements, Alipay is the crown jewel and, according to Ma, will eventually grow to be worth more than Alibaba itself. Ma said this week that Alipay, which handles one billion payment transactions every day, will list on a domestic stock exchange, unlike Alibaba, as it continues to take center stage in the payment world. Many US companies are also venturing into the payment sector, with Amazon, Google and Apple following the lead of China’s Big Three tech companies – Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent. But Chen has opted to stay in China because he believes e-finance has a brighter future in China than in the US, since both the internet and finance sectors have more room to grow.
At a talk on internet finance at CKGSB’s Beijing campus in September this year, Chen stressed the age-old relationship between commerce and payment, saying that payment is necessary to do commerce, but that once you have payment abilities, you can offer a lot of additional services. It is those additional services that Chen will be closely involved with in his challenging new role, where his research will be crucial in ongoing negotiations with financial regulators over new financial services and products. Chen has previously argued that products like Yu E Bao will play an important role in China’s interest rate liberalization reform, and said recently that there will be many more rounds of lobbying between the traditional banking sector and those involved in e-finance before the final ground rules are set.
All at CKGSB wish him well in his exciting new role.