HSBC has reportedly expanded its PayMe digital wallet to startups and small businesses, marking its first foray into the business payments marketplace.
According to a report in the Financial Times, the U.K. bank quietly rolled out the digital wallet in Hong Kong as a response to competition from the likes of Tencent and Alibaba. In February, reports had surfaced that HSBC was testing the wallet with business customers.
HSBC’s PayMe digital wallet has been available to individuals since the early part of 2017, but now it is targeting startups and small business owners. The bank has received thousands of applications since launching PayMe in April, according to Stuart Tait, the regional head of commercial banking for HSBC in Asia.
“We never really thought of it as a client acquisition tool in the [small and medium-sized businesses] space, but a number of companies [have come] along that we don’t currently bank with,” Tait said in the report. Businesses are attracted to the PayMe service because HSBC gives them access to payment data on its 1.5 million consumers, which helps them better assess the potential demand for goods and services, Tait noted.
HSBC now has 3,000 registered users, noted the report. The bank is trying to drum up more business as it takes on Alibaba and Tencent in the Hong Kong digital payments market.
Alipay‘s Hong Kong digital wallet has 50,000 merchants and more than two million users. The company formed a joint venture with CK Hutchison Holdings in March of 2018 to launch the e-wallet. Tencent and Ant Financial, the payment affiliate of China’s Alibaba, received digital banking licenses for Hong Kong, adding another layer of competition for HSBC. The report noted that while HSBC did not apply for a digital banking license in Hong Kong, it is now reconsidering the decision.