UK fintech Tribe Payments is partnering with UnionPay as part of the Chinese giant's 'aggressive' push into Europe


Logos of China UnionPay are seen on bank cards in this photo illustration taken in Beijing December 5, 2013. REUTERS/Barry Huang

  • Chinese payments giant UnionPay is going into a partnership with UK fintech startup Tribe Payments. 
  • UnionPay is the third largest card and payments provider in the world, after Mastercard and Visa, and has “very aggressive” plans for expansion in Europe, Tribe Payments’ CEO told Business Insider. 
  • “An IPO is already an aim for the future,” says the Tribe Payments CEO. 

China’s largest payments provider UnionPay is making major strides into Europe by launching a partnership with UK fintech start up Tribe Payments. 

UnionPay was founded in 2002 under a mandate by the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) and has issued some 6 billion cards to date. The company’s platform has mostly expanded in Asia but has come under increasing competition from disruptive brands like Alipay and Tencent’s WeChat Pay. 

“We have the largest cardholder base in the world,” says Wei Zhihong, UnionPay International’s market director and head of its European branch. “Working with innovative partners such as Tribe Payments is a key part of our expansion and growth in the European market where we are accepted by 3.3 million merchants in over 40 countries.”

The state-run giant’s expansion is a “a very aggressive move into the European market,” says Suresh Vaghjiani, CEO of Tribe Payments, in an interview with Business Insider. “Visa and Mastercard run the show, but UnionPay have a big ambition in this region and we are the first to offer their platform here.”

Tribe Payments was founded by payments industry veterans who have worked first hand at fintechs and challenger banks such as Monzo, Revolut, and Starling in an attempt to create a globally scalable backend payments system. 

The company is based in London and has 72 employees. Tribe officially launches Monday and will provide modular payments solutions to merchants and customers with new products available without typically cumbersome legacy systems getting in the way of the backend payments process. 

Tribe has 15 clients, four of which are in beta testing. Two clients are interested in using UnionPay through Tribe, Vaghjiani said.

“We have bold ambitions and what we’re offering is the first of its kind in Europe,” Vaghjiani told Business Insider. “We are going to challenge traditional providers and an IPO is already an aim for the future.” 

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