Lucy Peng – The Financial Guru of Alibaba

8:02 am
1 Ariel Andersen
One of the tech industry's most inspiring women, Lucy Peng, is on her way to take over the financial world.

Lucy Peng is the co-founder of the Asian e-commerce giant, Alibaba. She is also known as Peng Lei, and is ranked as the third wealthiest woman in the tech sector (April 2015 by Wealth-X). She has a net worth in the region of $1.2 billion, and her wealth was created by co-founding the largest e-commerce company in Asia, Alibaba.com. Forbes has pegged Lucy Peng at #35 (2016 figures) on The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women List. In 2015, she was ranked at #33 on the list. She lives in Hangzhou China, and is 43 years old. Lucy Peng earned her Bachelor of Arts degree at Zhejiang Gongshang University. Peng was an economics teacher prior to cofounding Alibaba.

She eschews the limelight, despite having 2 high-profile positions with China’s biggest online e-commerce company. She serves as the chief executive officer (CEO) of Ant Financial which is the financial segment of Alibaba. She also oversees the entire 36,446-strong workforce of Alibaba in her capacity as CPO (Chief People Officer). The financial wing of the company has been valued at approximately $50 billion, and its growing fast. By 2017, analysts are expecting Ant Financial to become a public company in China. There are 6 unique divisions at Ant Financial, the most important of which is Alipay. This online service processes payments and it boasts 80+ million transactions per day, with an estimated 400 million users.

Lucy Peng
Photo by: fortune.com

Peng Features on the World’s Most Powerful Women Lists

Fortune Magazine ranked Lucy Peng of China at #11 on The Most Powerful Women in Asia list in 2015. In 2014, the revenues generated by Alibaba were $12,293 million, with 2014 profits of $3,914 million. The market valuation of the company as May 2016 was $200.7 billion. Alibaba was founded in 1999 in China and its current CEO is Yong Zhang. The company generated sales of $14.96 billion. It is primarily an online and mobile e-commerce company with a strong focus on wholesale trade and retail trade. It also provides cloud computing and related services. Alipay is the leading mobile payment solution and online payment solution in China, and Lucy Peng heads the division. Alibaba Group Holding – the company that owns all of the divisions – was founded by Yung Ma and Chung Tsai in Hangzhou, China.

Ant Financial Targets India and Korea

The latest round of fundraising for Ant Financial is likely to top $3.1 billion. This will generate a valuation of $50 billion for this unique Alibaba company. Considering that Uber has a market valuation of $51 billion, Ant Financial is among the most valuable private companies in the world. This multibillion-dollar fundraiser is the second round of financing for the company. During its first year of financing, Ant was valued at $45 billion. Peng was instrumental in cofounding Alibaba, and setting up the online financial services company back in 2014. Her pre-stated goal was to cater to what she deemed the little guys a.k.a. small businesses and operators. As with many Chinese juggernauts, the target is the global arena.

Lucy Peng
Photo by: financeasia.com

Ant Financial is now barreling ahead, along with Alibaba, towards the Indian market. It has a 40% interest in Paytm which is India’s biggest mobile commerce operator. This is valued at $900 million. In October 2016, Ant Financial was approved to operate in Korea. It was granted regulatory approval for investment in K Bank, an online bank. However, the primary source of income for Ant Financial is Alipay. This serves as the China equivalent of US payment giant, PayPal. Thanks to Alibaba’s massive user base of 400 million people, Ant Financial has a huge base to tap into on a daily basis.

How Rich is Rich? Lucy Peng on Tech’s Wealthiest Women List

In 2015 Hewlett-Packard CEO, Meg Whitman topped the list with a net worth of $1.3 billion. She generated most of her wealth from selling her eBay shares from 2007. At position #2 on the list is Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg. She weighs in with a net worth of $1.22 billion. She generated her net worth from selling half of her Facebook shares. At position #3 is Alibaba’s co-founder, Lucy Peng. According to the Singapore-based research company, Wealth-X, Lucy Peng was worth $1.2 billion in 2015. The other top two females in technology include Wang Hsiueh Hong of HTC Corporation at $819 million and the chief executive officer of Yahoo Inc, Marissa Mayer with a net worth of $410 million. A study on the top 5 richest women in the tech sector indicates that there is still a tremendous gender disparity in this arena. The men on the Wealth-X list far outweigh the woman. For example, in 2015, Mark Zuckerberg was worth an estimated $35 billion while Microsoft founder Bill Gates was worth $85 billion.

Who Made the Alibaba IPO Come True?

In the run-up to Alibaba’s first IPO, little mention was made of the Chinese e-commerce giant’s penchant for populating the company with women. Of the 18 cofounders, 6 of them are women. The company’s ranking partnership group also comprises 33% woman and they control the company by way of nominating directors. The two most powerful woman in the company include Lucy Peng and Maggie Wu, CFO. These female executives have tremendous influence at the company. Alibaba is no ordinary e-commerce giant. It operates within a complex regulatory morass that is near impossible to deconstruct. In fact, Alibaba is regarded as the most complicated setup among tech companies the world over. For starters, Alibaba features a complicated network of offshore holding companies for foreign shareholders, but foreigners are not allowed to own shares of the actual company in China.

Alibaba

More importantly, Alipay has become its own entity. The company has been dogged by lack of transparency and governance-related issues. Alibaba has a rather strange policy of acquiring companies, and its portfolio includes supermarket operators and soccer teams, online payment systems and the like. Enter Lucy Peng – the economics teacher who teamed up with Alibaba founder Jack Ma to make this e-commerce company a reality. Peng’s husband was a close personal friend of Jack Ma at inception and he now runs Taobao, the eBay-style marketplace of Alibaba. Back in 2013, it was Lucy Peng who was widely regarded as the next chief executive officer of the company.

She attests to joining the company because everyone was enthusiastic about it. In the early 2000’s, she was in charge of the human resources Department of the company, and within 10 years she described Alibaba’s culture as similar to that of Starbucks. When she visited the United States in 2009, she indicated that every Starbucks store felt like a family, especially the interaction between Starbucks employees and their regular customers. With this in mind, she returned to China to infuse this culture into the company. She called it the mom-and-pop model with the mom being the person who fostered teamwork and the pop being responsible for the financial aspects.

Jack Ma Implicitly Trusts Lucy Peng: Principled Leadership

Those who have had the pleasure of working with Lucy Peng regard her as a born leader. She remains committed to the core principles of the company, and has won the admiration of her peers at Alibaba and beyond. In 2013, Alipay processed payments valued at $520 billion, and that number has risen rapidly every year since. In fact, Alipay dwarfs PayPal’s earnings by a long margin and the divide continues to grow. Jack Ma selected Lucy Peng to head up Alipay, despite her lack of management expertise. He attributed her nomination to her passion for the product and have principles she holds near and dear to her heart. Jack Ma is more concerned with employees and co-workers who embody his principles and value system than the specific skills or expertise they can bring to the table. It is all about trust at Alibaba.