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China's Lufax prepares to meet the global market

It started out as one of 3,000 peer-to-peer lenders in China. In six years, it has become a broad wealth management platform that may raise as much as $5 billion in an international IPO this year. The pace of its growth has been every bit as breathtaking as Tencent’s WeChat or Alibaba’s Alipay, yet few outside China have heard of it. They will. CEO Gregory Gibb tells us why.

Illustration: Barry Downard

Lufax is the unacknowledged dynamo of Chinese internet banking. BAT – Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent – get all the press as they convert e-commerce and social media businesses into emergent financial service enterprises with customer bases the size of continents. But Lufax, which is preparing what could be Hong Kong’s biggest IPO of the year, is in some ways the most interesting of them all.

Founded in 2011, Lufax – known locally as Lujiazui, or in full, Shanghai Lujiazui International Financial Asset Exchange – started out as a peer-to-peer lender. That is not unusual. As many as 3,000 P2P businesses were operational in China by 2015, although many have since vanished or collapsed. 

But Lufax had two distinguishing features: the backing of the Ping An group and a great deal of ambition. 

Six years on, it has expanded to become a large wealth management, consumer finance and institutional trading business, with 25.5 million registered users, Rmb390.92 billion ($57 billion) of retail assets and Rmb111.65 billion of loans under management. As is the way of Chinese internet finance business, its growth numbers border on the absurd.

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