Ant International picks Malaysia for its Digital Business Centre, hiring 500 with eye to grow ‘huge operations centre’

  • Multi-ethnic culture coupled with talent, cost based, supportive policies key draw
  • Deliver services from all 4 key pillars of Ant International’s business to global customers

(From left): Nina Xiao, HR Director of Ant International; Douglas Feagin, President of Ant International; Nik Naharudin, Director, Digital Talent & Entrepreneurship, Digital Industry Acceleration Division, MDEC; Nik Hishamuddin, Head (Tertiary), Digital Talent & Entrepreneurship Department, Digital Industry Acceleration Division, MDEC.

If you thought the competition for fintech talent in Malaysia was heated with the launch of five digital banks last year, think again.

The competition just got a whole lot more heated with the announcement in KL on 18 April from Singapore headquartered Ant International, an affiliate of Ant Group Ptd Ltd in which Alibaba owns a 33% stake, of its plans to establish a Digital Business Centre in Malaysia with a headcount of 500 execs by 2025, and with plans for continued hiring into 2028.

[Ed: An earlier version wrongly stated that Alibaba has a 33% stake in Ant International. The error is regretted. Ant International clarified that they are not associated with Alibaba.]

The majority of the roles will be tech and knowledge focused, with the biggest team being the Technology and Development department composed of software engineers, followed by product & design (UX, UI, product design), data science, business development, finance, management, and risk control.

For each of these departments, Ant International is bringing in a full suite of roles said Nina Xiao, HR Director of Ant International. For instance, in data science it will have data science and modeling, risk data, business data and operational data expertise. “So that's to say that we mean it for real. We are bringing in all the functions for the centre here in Malaysia,” she stressed.

As to why the Singapore headquartered international business arm of the Hangzhou based Ant Group had picked Malaysia for this expansion, where it has had a presence since 2014, Douglas Feagin president of Ant International acknowledged that, “While there are a lot of places that Ant International could have chosen to have a Digital Business Centre, Malaysia is not just ripe with talent and opportunities but it also has very forward-looking policies, and a government that supports the development of a digital economy.”

The country’s multi-ethnic culture fabric is another strong draw, compared to other markets said Xiao, “So that's why I think, if we're setting up our global centers, Malaysia could be one of the destinations as (our) people who are coming here won't feel it's so difficult to blend in.”


Aims to build huge operations centre in Malaysia

Expressing confidence in their investment into Malaysia where it sees “huge long term growth”, Feagin says Ant International aims to build up “a huge operations centre in Malaysia,” between the next 10 to 20 years starting with the 500 execs that the company is ready to hire now.

To be clear, the centre in Malaysia is not focused on handling Malaysian or Southeast Asian customers. It will be handling customers globally with the long term growth that Ant International sees coming from the early stage of adoption of not just digital payments but digitisation of businesses as well with Ant International developing the tools to help businesses adopt digital.  

Without disclosing the investment amount, Feagin stressed that Ant International will be investing a lot, “and that's both the initial investment, then the ongoing investment.”

It helps that Southeast Asia makes up the largest portion of Ant International’s global business, said Feagin. While Ant International has also expanded in Singapore, moving into larger premises last year, Malaysia, with its combination of talent, world class infrastructure, strong digital economy push and cost advantage, is where the action is going to be for the group, which has confirmed that it will be moving into the premium Exchange 106 tower (formerly known as TRX Signature Tower).

As Feagin put it, “this Malaysia center is going to be where we have the most people and be a core engine of our growth. All our different business activities will be represented here.”

By all, he means the four key pillars of Ant International’s business:

  • Alipay+ cross-border mobile payment service which connects over 88 million merchants to 1.5 billion consumer accounts on over 25 e-wallets and banking apps in 57 countries and regions, allowing consumers to travel and pay worry-free across borders, and merchants to build out cross-border consumer engagement and digital marketing. Alipay+ is integrated with Malaysia’s national QR, DuitNow QR.
  • Antom Merchant Payment Services which helps global merchants to engage digitally with consumers in Asia and beyond.
  • WorldFirst digital payment and financial services for cross-border trade SMEs has served over 1 million SMEs to grow internationally with its World Account, with plans to serve Malaysian SMEs by 2024.
  • ANEXT Bank, a digital wholesale bank regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore, focuses on enabling effortless and accessible financial services to SMEs.

“The opening of the new Digital Business Centre in Malaysia plays an important role for local tech talent to thrive in the digital industry,“ said Mahadhir Aziz, CEO of Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), who added that the decision by Ant International will also create investment opportunities and, “position Malaysia as the digital hub of ASEAN.”


Career trajectory for young talent

To support its aggressive hiring plans, Ant International plans to collaborate with local partners in developing the tech talent that it needs, including through programs like its 10x1000 online platform, an open and global learning community to nurture and inspire future tech talent and digital leaders through  mentorship exposure with Ant International’s leaders. With the help pf partners such as MDEC, TNG Digital and the Fintech Association of Malaysia, it has trained 120 people in the country over the past few years with 33% being female.

It is also laying out the welcome mat for fresh graduates and interns with Xiao emphasising the strong culture of promoting inhouse talent at Ant International and the rapid prospects for careeg growth as the company grows. She points to the company’s chief technology officer. “He started with us over 10 years ago and is now the CTO,” she said, adding that that this is not an isolated example with many of its key technology leaders today starting out as fresh graduates who grew with the business.

The company has a culture of sharing experience as well. “For every newcomer, we’ll pair them with an experienced senior as their buddy to provide daily guidance and professional career advice to ease them into the new working environment and to learn quickly,” Xiao elaborated.

“Those who join our team will have a front row seat to global fintech innovation and collaborations, and play a part in our mission to shape the future of fintech and commerce,” said Feagin.

He also expressed his excitement at the thought of beginning a new chapter of Ant International’s Journey in Malaysia, as they have been contributing to the fintech industry for the last 10 years.

“We are now looking towards a future that is more global, more connected, and more inclusive; with the Malaysian government promoting tech skills development and positioning Malaysia as an innovation hub. We believe that together with partners like MDEC, we can harness local tech talents to significantly accelerate the impact that our businesses can make, locally and around the world.


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