Hong Kong-based Virtual Bank ‘WeLab’ Secures $156M in Funding

The funding will allow the bank to apply "innovative technologies" in the region & "roll out additional products and services."

WeLab, one of the eight companies authorized by the Hong Kong monetary authority to operate a virtual bank, announced on December 13th that it had raised the equivalent of $156 million in Series C strategic financing round. According to local media outlet Fintech News, the round was “one of the largest fintech fundraising rounds in Greater China.”

Investors who contributed to WeLab include Alibaba Hong Kong Entrepreneur’s Fund and the China Construction Bank.

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Simon Loong, Founder and Group CEO of WeLab, said that “this financing will be used to further develop and broaden our platform as a fintech enabler.”

“Further investment into technology research and development will enable us to apply these innovative technologies around the region and roll out additional products and services for our customers to provide holistic financial services digitally,” Loong explained, cited by Fintech News.

Loong originally announced the company’s intention to open as a virtual bank in July, following the HKMA’s decision to grant the company a virtual banking license in April.

Simon Loong, Founder and Group CEO of WeLab. (Source: Fintech News)

The announcement came during an interview with Bloomberg when Loong also said that he hopes to have the platform up and running by the end of this year. However, more recent statements have indicated that WeLab will launch in 2020.

The advantages of being “mobile first”

Loong has previously stated that he believed that WeLab and other virtual banks have an advantage due to being “mobile first” because they are free from dealing with legacy systems.

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Similarly, Nischal Shetty, CEO and founder of India-based cryptocurrency exchange WazirX, said in a recent interview with Finance Magnates that online financial platforms have the power to reach corners of India that more traditional, brick-and-mortar banks were never able to establish themselves in.

“When you look at India as a [financial] market, India is very heavy on the mobile side of things,” rather than brick-and-mortar institutions, such as banks,” Shetty told Finance Magnates.

“India has, I think, skipped the tech-stop revolution and moved directly to the mobile revolution. Everyone has a mobile phone here,” he continued. “At the time when we were launching, you’ll be surprised to know that there was no [exchange] that had mobile apps on both platforms–either they had it on iOS or Android, and these were all buggy, with really low ratings.”

In an interview with CNBC conducted in November, Loong said that “fintech companies are offering newer technology and better customer service experiences, and banks will have to catch up.”

Finance Magnates previously reported in 2016 that WeLab raised $160 million in a Series B round led by Malaysian sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional Berhad and including investments from ING Bank and state-owned Guangdong Technology Financial Group (GTFG)

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