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Yintran offers Hong Kong a new payments solution
In the U.S., mobile apps like Venmo have made it easier for people to send money to each other with a smartphone. But in Hong Kong — a city which helped pioneer electronic payments with the launch of the Octopus card in 1997 — there have been few equivalents if any. That is until the launch of Yintran, a new money transfer network.
The concept is simple: users can connect their bank accounts to the app, top up their balance, connect with friends, and transfer funds instantly. The money transfer network — which now has partnerships with over 20 Hong Kong banks — can be used for gifts, collecting or making donations, paying rent or school fees, or splitting expenses.
The service, which is free for individual users up to 12 months and costs HK$25 ($3.20) per year thereafter, is the brainchild of Robert Liu (pictured), an engineering and banking industry veteran of more than 20 years. He explains that his initial aim in starting the business was to do away with paper checks. He tells NexChange:
I had this idea 10 years ago when I was writing a check and thought: “we are in the 21st century, why are we still doing this?” So we looked at the technology that the banks were using at the time and realized it hadn’t changed in nearly 20 years.
Liu says that even though there was a clear need for disruption a decade ago, the cost of the technology needed to develop Yintran’s platform was prohibitive at that time. This would have made it difficult to be a substitute for the check. But that has since changed. Liu added:
It wasn’t until three years ago that we realized the time was right, so we started connecting with people in the industry we knew, and the more we worked on it, the more confident we became.
To make the Yintran network a reality, and to tackle the various technical and regulatory hurdles, Liu teamed up with both veteran Silicon Valley engineer Scott Meredith and COO Elinor Chen. Currently, the platform may transfer in Hong Kong dollars and Chinese yuan. But Liu says that is just the start:
We want to bring more currencies on the platform over the next 24 months, we believe we have the technology to do that. We will spend the next 6-12 months penetrating the Hong Kong market but beyond that there are many other markets we will look to get involved in.