Ant Financial plans to open its mobile payment platform Alipay to third-party vendors, allowing them to offer a range of services on the app in a bid to expand beyond financial services.

In a statement, Ant Financial said the move, a three-year project, was aimed at supporting the digital transformation of 40 million merchants in China, with Alipay evolving its offering to become a “gateway” into different areas.

The company said consumer retail, food and beverage, hotels and accommodation, transportation and medical services would all be available to Alipay users.

Ant Financial pointed to the Covid-19 (coronavirus) outbreak as evidence of the demand it has seen for additional services on the Alipay app.

Recently, the company introduced an incentive programme encouraging developers to create services to help users complete various tasks and fulfil needs while working from home.

Within a week, it said more than 1,200 developers had responded, creating platforms for a range of services, including grocery delivery and healthcare consultation.

Simon Hu, CFO at Ant Financial (pictured) said the services sector in China is still in the nascent stages of digital transformation, “and that means it has huge untapped potential”.

“Amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, we have also seen how digital technology can be used to help service providers become more agile and respond effectively to the fast-changing market environments,” he explained.