WeBank claimed the title of China’s first privately owned bank when it received a banking licence back in 2014. Owned 30% by Tencent, it operates an online-only model in microloans, capitalising on Tencent’s reach across social media, especially the WeChat app.

WeBank issued Rmb3.7 trillion ($540 billion) in loans between its launch in 2015 and 2019, according to company data, with its digital roots allowing it to service customers that other lenders have avoided on cost grounds.

Analysts have turned negative on the fintech sector since Ant Group’s clash with regulators last winter. But WeBank is a digital bank rather than a full-flow fintech and there were signs that it was still in favour with the authorities in March 2021 when the press reported that it would be a lead articipant in trials for China’s new digital yuan, alongside six state banks and Ant-backed MyBank.

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