Aly Song | Reuters
MYbank – an exclusively online bank in which Ant has a 30% stake – allows some users to link their accounts to the Chinese yuan digital app, the state-backed China Securities Journal said on Monday.
The new feature is available to some users through the Ant’s Alipay app, according to another report from the newspaper. Alipay is one of the two main mobile payment applications in China, where the use of smartphones for daily payment transactions is the norm.
Last year, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) distributed millions of dollars in digital yuan through an app connected to the six major state-owned banks. These tests allowed selected users to purchase products at participating physical stores and in JD.com’s e-commerce application.
“As one of the participants in the e-CNY trial, Ant Group partner MYbank will steadily advance the trial in accordance with the Comprehensive Arrangement of the People’s Bank of China,” said declared the company. “Ant Group, together with MYbank, will also continue to support the research, development and testing of PBOC’s e-CNY. “
MYbank said it had more than 35 million small businesses and retail customers at the end of last year, up 68% from the previous year.
It was not immediately clear to what extent MYbank users could transact in digital yuan.
The news comes as Chinese authorities seek to encourage spending through shopping festivals this month in Shanghai and other cities, where state media has said some merchants are accepting the digital yuan.
Chinese media noted on Monday that WeBank accounts were not yet activated for use with the Yuan digital app. A representative for WeBank did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Ant’s increased involvement with the digital yuan comes despite increased scrutiny from Chinese regulators. Authorities abruptly suspended Ant’s massive IPO in November, and last month regulators said Ant would restructure as a financial holding company.
Unlike internationally popular cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, China’s digital currency is controlled by a single authority – the central bank.