WorldFirst upgrades payment and financial solutions to better serve merchants venturing overseas

In 2013, driven by the dream of striking gold, Wang Hao moved from Harbin to Shenzhen with his college roommate to delve into e-commerce. When the duo made their first windfall from a Singles’ Day event in the mid-2010s, they were convinced of the enormous potential that cross-border e-commerce possesses, oblivious to the challenges that would lie ahead of them.

Dismal sales from poor product selection and prolonged legal battles from losses incurred from a fire were barely issues at the tip of the iceberg. While setting up overseas warehouses in his initial venture overseas, Wang lost over RMB 80,000 (USD 11,000) worth of goods.

These days, Wang’s company rakes in over RMB 40 million (USD 5.5 million) in revenue each year. Reflecting on his journey, he said focusing on good products that can have high inventory turnover are more important than just profits. However, access to reliable international payment and financial services remains a challenge faced by small and medium enterprises, adding extra pressure to already-thin profit margins.

Chipping away trade barriers

During the WorldFirst Ecosystem Summit held in Shenzhen on May 8, Clara Shi, CEO of WorldFirst, announced an upgrade to the company’s cross-border payment and financial toolkit for merchants. With WorldFirst, China-based SMEs can now open a multi-currency account to access currencies used across 200 countries and regions, streamlining cross-border transactions for greater transparency and mitigation of potential losses incurred as a result of currency risks and fluctuations.

Notably, WorldFirst account holders in China can now receive payments in over 30 currencies, up from the previous 14, with same-day transactions available for 80% of them. Additionally, payments can now be made in over 100 currencies, up from 41, with 90% supporting same-day transactions and settlement in RMB.

“Under volatile economic conditions and intense competition, Chinese merchants can now expand, manage, and transact with one account,” said Shi to over a thousand merchants and ecosystem partners who were in attendance, emphasizing the company’s focus on financial inclusion. Traditionally, financial service providers did not cater to SME clients due to their lack of scale. WorldFirst is filling this gap, offering cross-border payment and financial services to businesses of all sizes, including credit enhancement services, unsecured credit loans, insurance, and more.

In addition, WorldFirst is enhancing the security of client transactions by partnering with banks and financial institutions, including eight “Globally Systemically Important Banks” (G-SIBs). The company has a notable fraud prevention track record in the industry.

A business that has benefitted as a result is Xinhuanya, a company from Shenzhen that sells a variety of goods such as automotive accessories and home decorations to the Southeast Asian markets through cross-border platforms. Hu Xiongfei, deputy general manager of Xinhuanya, said that the massive growth of cross-border trade has attracted more companies to enter the market, posing significant challenges to others with a lack of differentiation.

Photo of a warehouse operated by Xinhuanya. Photo source: Ant International.

By leveraging digital tools, Hu believes that companies can be quick to respond and adapt. “When choosing a cross-border payment company, we consider factors such as fees, timeliness, exchange rates, and brand reputation,” said Hu. “With the cross-border fund management and digital financial solutions provided by WorldFirst under Ant Group, we can transact efficiently, securely, and compliantly, greatly improving our expert efficiency globally.”

With WorldFirst, Chinese merchants like Xinhuanya can conveniently access a myriad of financial services, enabling efficient and comprehensive management of both primary and subsidiary accounts, as well as transactions with global business partners as well as upstream and downstream suppliers.

Building an ecosystem to foster global business growth

WorldFirst will also invest RMB 100 million (USD 13.8 million) to develop an ecosystem of over 100,000 outbound Chinese businesses, with the aim of nurturing cross-border giants. By roping in its core partners, including major banks and providers in both the upstream and downstream, WorldFirst’s ecosystem offers companies an avenue to seek support from one another while exploring international expansion, and achieving growth collectively.

According to WorldFirst data, the number of Chinese merchants on its platform expanding overseas increased 56% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2024.

At the Canton Fair in April WorldFirst launched WorldTrade, a platform that seamlessly integrates business and fund flows. According to WorldFirst, WorldTrade can increase order payment efficiency tenfold and reduce costs by over 30%. Less than two weeks after the launch of WorldTrade, it has attracted foreign trade buyers from 33 countries to do business with Chinese merchants.

A credit card and an app offering access to all of its financial services are also in the works. “In the face of rapid changes in the global market, we have learned to quickly adapt to various changes using digital technology,” said Hu. “With more players entering the game, the cross-border trade industry will witness stiff competition in product strength, brand influence, and innovation.”

This article was written in partnership with WorldFirst.

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