Simon Hu is the CEO of Ant Group. Said company has seen much mention in business news in recent times, seeing as how it was set to have the biggest IPO ever before Chinese authorities put a stop to the process. Much remains unclear about the situation, so it will be interesting to see what happens next. The CEO of the business, however, is interesting.
1. His Chinese Name Is Hu Xiaoming
It is very common for Chinese people to choose an English name for themselves when interacting with the English-speaking world. As such, it should come as no surprise to learn that Simon Hu is Hu's English name, which means that he has a Chinese name as well. Said Chinese name would be Hu Xiaoming, with Hu being the family name and Xiaoming being the personal name.
2. Based Out of Hangzhou
Currently, Hu is based out of Hangzhou, which makes sense because Ant Group is based out of Hangzhou. For those who are curious, Hangzhou is the capital of Zhejiang, which is a province situated on the eastern coast of China. In the past, it was famous for being the terminus of the Grand Canal that runs for 1,776 km, thus making it the longest man-made river in the entire world. In the present, Hangzhou is much better-known for being one of the commercial centers that have flourished because of the Chinese economic boom.
3. Rose Up through Alibaba Group
Hu has held positions with other entities. However, he rose up the ranks at Alibaba Group, which counts Ant Group as one of its affiliates. Generally speaking, Alibaba Group is famous for its role in facilitating e-commerce. However, it has long since branched out into other fields. For proof, look no further than Ant Group.
4. Involved in Cloud Computing and SME Loans
Two examples of Hu's career at Alibaba Group would be his involvement with its cloud computing and its SME loan divisions. Both of these things are connected with Ant Group's current focuses, so it seems reasonable to say that Hu's involvement with these divisions enabled him to build much-needed expertise and experience towards his current position.
5. Has Risen to His Position in Recent Times
Speaking of which, Hu rose to his current position as the CEO of Ant Group in recent times. To be exact, he was named CEO in December of 2019. However, it is interesting to note that while Hu replaced Eric Jing as CEO, he did not replace Jing in Jing's other position of Executive Chairman. Instead, Hu continues to report to Jing. In any case, Ant Group was already getting ready for its IPO at the time, so this would have been entrusted to Hu as a part of his duties. Something that speaks of confidence in his capabilities at a critical time.
6. Connected with Jack Ma
Officially, Jack Ma doesn't hold any executive position in Ant Group. Unofficially, well, suffice to say that a lack of formal authority doesn't necessarily mean a lack of influence. After all, while Ma has stepped down from the Board of Directors for Alibaba Group, he is still very much involved with the companies that he co-founded. As such, how Ma is perceived has a huge effect on how Ant Group is perceived.
7. Focused on Blocking Rivals
Hu's Ant Group possesses a strong position in its chosen market. However, it is far from being unchallenged, as shown by the successes of both Tencent and Meituan Dianping. As such, Hu mentioned a two-pronged strategy for ensuring continuing success in June of 2020. The first prong involves stopping Ant Group's main competitors from making further inroads into its chosen market, which is necessary because they have been so successful that they are actually beginning to threaten its dominance in the Chinese mobile payments market. Something that can't be a very comfortable feeling for Hu and the rest of Ant Group's executives.
8. Focused on Diversification
The second prong involves diversification. However, that word is insufficient for the scope of Ant Group's ambitions. For those who are curious, the company doesn't want to be known as just a provider of financial services. Instead, it is looking to play a key role in the digitalization of Chinese service providers, thus enabling it to transform itself into a go-to app for everything from buying groceries and booking hotels to seeking help with personal wealth management.
9. Running a Company that Has Been Rebranding Itself as a Tech Company
Ant Group was called Ant Financial Services Group as recently as June of 2020. This is connected to its aforementioned desire to be seen as a fintech company or even a tech company rather than a financial company. Having said that, this seems to have played into the Chinese authorities' decision to stop Ant Group's IPO because of a sense that the company's rebranding is meant to help it to avoid the responsibilities of a financial company.
10. Caught in a Complicated Situation
Regardless, there can be no doubt about the fact that Hu is caught in a complicated situation. There are predictions that Ant Group's IPO will still go ahead at some point in the future. However, it will take time before everything is worked out to the Chinese authorities' satisfaction, so there is no sure way to predict when that will happen. In any case, much of the problem is rooted in the Chinese authorities' complicated relationship with Chinese mega-corporations. On the one hand, Chinese mega-corporations play an important role in China's rise on the world stage, thus making them a symbol of pride in a very real sense. On the other hand, Chinese authorities see the immense power of Chinese mega-corporations as a serious concern, particularly since the Chinese institutions responsible for regulating commercial matters remain weaker than a lot of their longer-established counterparts. In fact, it is worth mentioning that corporate shenanigans have caused a number of crises in recent decades, which are the kind of thing that erodes public confidence and thus political legitimacy. As such, the Chinese authorities putting a stop to Ant Group's IPO is very much an example of it seeking to rein in a potential concern, though whether this is justified or not is a question that produces a wide range of answers from a wide range of parties.
Written by Allen Lee
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