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RETAIL FUNDS | Cesar Tordesillas, Indonesia
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China's fund companies turn to shopping website for customers

Taobao, a shopping website, has attracted about 20 fund management companies.

Owned by e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, it has become a new sales channel for fund investors after it launched a wealth management channel in July.

"Fund companies are opening online stores on Taobao, but we are only providing a trading platform and will not need any other licenses," said company spokeswoman Wang Ying.

Alipay - Alibaba's payment service provider - will handle the online payment process for certain products.

Alipay has a license to offer payment services for fund management companies. Wang said that neither Taobao nor Alipay will be directly involved in the sale of fund products.

Taobao plans to prioritize financial business and wants to attract more fund management companies to its Web platform.

For instance, Bank of Communications Co Ltd - one of the country's largest banks - sells some of its fund products on Taobao. The bank is offering six types of funds, but investors can only make reservations onlineand have to visit a bank branch to complete the transaction.

Tao Qian, a sales channel manager with a Shanghai-based fund company, said that online sales may challenge traditional channels such as banks and fund companies.

However, Tao said he believes that the impact will not be significant in the short term because it takes a long time to cultivate a new channel and to get investors used to it.

"Online retailers may have an advantage in terms of easy access to a large database of buyers' information, and they have techniques to dig the data to find potential fund investors," Tao said.

However, it's not easy to turn those potential buyers into real investors who are attracted to fund products in the same way as they are attracted to toys, cosmetics or groceries, Tao added.

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