Jack Ma fintech WorldFirst Brand fires back over report issues of board exodus

Founder of Jack Ma-Owned Fintech, WorldFirst, Addresses Reports of Board Exodus

Board Changes Raise Questions

Reports of a significant board exodus at London fintech WorldFirst, owned by Jack Ma, have been met with a response from the company’s founder amid concerns raised by a whistleblower regarding risk governance policies implemented by Chinese management.

Global Base Line Project Leads to Reshuffling

As part of an internal overhaul initiative known as the ‘Global Base Line’ project, various management, risk, and oversight functions within WorldFirst were shifted from the UK to China in the previous year. Consequently, numerous senior leaders based in the UK departed from the company, including its CEO, finance director, managing director, head of risk, chief information security officer, and group general counsel and compliance officer. Some of these positions were filled by staff from WorldFirst’s parent company, Ant Financial.

Founder’s Perspective on the Changes

Jonathan Quin, the founder of WorldFirst, has expressed his perspective on these changes. He noted that certain roles transitioned from reporting to a local CEO to reporting to Chinese counterparts. He mentioned that some employees might have been uncomfortable working for a larger Chinese organization post-takeover, a sentiment not uncommon in such situations. Quin emphasized that his questions concerning the absence of a local CEO were more focused on business motivation, and steps were taken to address this concern.

Increased Scrutiny on Fintech Risk Policies

The changes at WorldFirst and heightened scrutiny over fintech firms’ risk policies come against the backdrop of increased regulations related to sanctioned individuals and entities. Last week, London-based fintech Wise faced accusations of ‘inappropriate’ controls regarding sanctions rules by the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation.

Background on WorldFirst and Jack Ma’s Involvement

Founded in London in 2004, WorldFirst was acquired by Jack Ma’s Ant Group in 2019 in a deal valued at over $700 million (£550 million). The company specializes in processing international payments, reporting revenues of £47 million in 2021. Prior to the acquisition, Ant Group had attempted to acquire US-based rival MoneyGram, but the deal was rejected in 2018 by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) due to national security concerns.

Satisfaction with Current Risk Management Practices

Jonathan Quin expressed satisfaction with WorldFirst’s present risk management practices and stated that he was unaware of any impropriety within the company. WorldFirst issued a statement confirming that its management members regularly engage with regulatory authorities regarding business activities and risk management functions, affirming the diligent discharge of their duties and obligations. The statement also emphasized the continued provision of valuable strategic guidance by board members.

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