China's Lufax to open regional hub here

A Shanghai-based investment management firm that will sell products exclusively online will open its regional hub here in the third quarter of this year, it was announced yesterday.

The platform will sell investment products to middle-income retail investors - those with about US$20,000 (S$27,400) to US$30,000 to spare - and especially those from China who want to park their money in offshore assets.

Mr Gregory Gibb, the co-chairman and chief executive of China's Lufax, said that customers seeking to invest globally have traditionally had to choose bank deposits at low risk but with low returns, or foreign exchange and stock trading that exposes them to volatility.

"What we think is missing for this middle-income investor is a platform that allows them to do more wealth management, more portfolio-based allocations, that is still lower risk but is improving their return over their deposit," he added.

Lufax's plans for international expansion have stepped up a gear after its unit here - Lu International (Singapore) Financial Asset Exchange - received in-principle approval from the Monetary Authority of Singapore for its capital markets services licence.

This allows it to offer its services to offshore clients, but not to Singapore residents. Customers will be able to access the online platform by logging in via a mobile device.

Lu International will focus on Chinese clients to begin with, but will consider moving into other markets such as Indonesia "depending on the volume", said Lu International chief executive Kit Wong.

Lufax was set up in 2011 as a peer-to-peer lender backed by China's Ping An Insurance (Group), and has more than 31 million registered users.

However, peer-to-peer lending has declined and now comprises only about 10 per cent of the firm's monthly transaction volume.

"The long-term strategy of Lufax is really to serve as an open wealth management platform where we're sourcing products - the best products we can," Mr Gibb said.

Lufax picked Singapore as its overseas hub due to the country's integrated fintech strategy and mature regulatory framework, he added.

"As soon as you can put something online or on an app, customers are looking for an integrated solution. And the fact that you have an integrated regulator really helps."

But management remained coy about Lufax's potential listing in Hong Kong, which has been mooted for months. Lufax was valued at US$18.5 billion early last year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 18, 2017, with the headline 'China's Lufax to open regional hub here'. Print Edition | Subscribe