Simon Hu has resigned as chief executive officer of Ant Group, months after the digital payments company was forced to pull its IPO amid a crackdown by Chinese regulators.
“The Ant Group Board of Directors has accepted Mr. Simon Hu’s resignation request, due to personal reasons,” said a spokesperson for the Alibaba (BABA) affiliate.
“We are thankful to Simon for the efforts he made at our company,” the spokesperson added.
Chairman Eric Jing has been named Ant Group’s new CEO, according to the company’s website. Jing had previously served the company in that position from 2016 to 2019.
Ant Group is best known for its Alipay digital payments app, which boasts more than 700 million active users every month.
It also has massive interests in online investing, insurance and consumer lending, which have helped it grow into a business with assets worth about $635 billion under management.
While the company was largely able to grow unchecked over the past decade, the political winds in Beijing are changing. The government has made clear that private firms such as Ant Group will be expected to toe the Chinese Communist Party line if they want to succeed.
Beijing has steadily been broadening its control over tech companies in recent months as part of its drive for greater control.
Not only did Chinese regulators force Ant Group to call off its record-breaking IPO in November, they also have ordered the company to overhaul its business. Authorities launched an antitrust investigation into Alibaba, questioned executives at rival tech firms Tencent and Pinduoduo, and floated new rules.
In the future, regulators may expect Ant Group to behave more like a traditional Chinese bank than a tech company.
Before joining Alipay China in 2006, Hu worked at China Construction Bank Corporation and China Everbright Bank. He held various positions at Alibaba and Ant Group before being selected as its CEO and executive chairman in 2019.
Hu will now devote his efforts to philanthropic work, and will be fully responsible for philanthropy and social responsibility at both Ant Group and Alibaba, according to a person familiar with an internal email that Jing sent to employees on Friday.
— Laura He contributed reporting.