QFPay enabling payments globally
A Hong Kong entrepreneur aims to expand China’s mobile payment services around the world through his Beijing-based startup QFPay.
Co-founder Tim Lee Ying-ho says he sees Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent as “aircraft carriers” in need of help from “tugboats” as they set sail in the global market. “QFPay is one of those boats,” he says.
QFPay produces point-of-sale terminals that enable e-payments from smart devices. Its technology is already central to Alipay and WeChat Pay’s services on the mainland, and Lee says in future it will continue to help the Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent powerhouses localise their services internationally.
Lee says the company, established in 2012 with “Hong Kong DNA”, has processed more than 20 billion yuan (US$2.96 billion) worth of transactions. He says QFPay’s great advantage is its understanding of both markets. Hong Kong’s 759 Store chain of outlets is a key merchant partner, accepting payments by Alipay and WeChat Pay.
“Hong Kong’s regulatory framework and its users’ behaviour are more similar to global markets, so it is a good testing ground. If our products or new features work in Hong Kong and comply to the rules here, we are confident of taking them to any market overseas,” says Hong Kong-born Lee. “However, we cannot copy our products directly from the mainland and use them overseas, as markets and rules vary enormously.”
Despite the massive expansion in mobile payments in the mainland, Lee says some of the regulations governing the sector are vague. “Of course, some problems that exist overseas do not happen on the mainland, too, but we can come up with solutions to help with fine-tuning wherever Alipay or WeChat Pay are being introduced.”
WeChat Pay’s “red packet” feature, used widely across the mainland to gift random amounts of money to consumers upon e-payments at shops or restaurants, is a prime example. Such random payments are regulated under Hong Kong’s gambling ordinance and need a licence.
“Mainland companies find it hard to understand why that’s a problem, but our team in Hong Kong has been able to resolve this,” he says. In this case, fixed amounts have been stipulated rather than random amounts.
Lee says Hong Kong’s “multicultural ambiance and education” enables his team there to be more flexible to change.
“These markets are being targeted initially by Alipay and WeChat Pay as they are top destinations for Chinese outbound travellers,” says Lee.
Smaller merchants are the main users of QFPay’s POS terminal on the mainland, he says, but overseas much larger brands, from catering firms to retailers, have already approached the company to see how they can use Alipay and WeChat Pay.
QFPay has sold its services to 500,000 merchants in China, and more than 1000 elsewhere, many in Hong Kong. The next step is to expand from mainly retailers to others who need more sophisticated terminals offering service packages, systems integration and more payment features.