Speech by Mr. Eric Jing, an Alumnus of CHEMBA Program and CEO of Ant Financial Service Group, at the Commencement Ceremony of Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota


On May 15, American time, Mr. Eric Jing, alumnus of CHEMBA Program and CEO of Ant Financial Service Group, was invited to give an address to the Graduating Class of 2017 at the Carlson School’s commencement ceremony.


Former guest speakers include, the Master of Innovation Steve Blank, Nobel Prize winners, Chief Justice of the United States and former Presidents of the United States of America.


Graduates and their friends and families, numbering over 1,500, were in attendance at Jing’s address. It was also the graduation date of Class 2015 of CHEMBA Program. Congratulations to every CHEMBA graduates!


‘Follow Your Heart,’ Jing Tells Graduates


Not long after graduating from the Carlson Executive MBA–China Program(CHEMBA) in 2005, Eric Jing found himself faced with an enviable yet difficult choice. He had two job offers—one from a Fortune 500 company, the other from Alibaba.


“One was a safe bet. As for Alibaba, all I knew was that it was a tech company and their mission was to make it easy to do business anywhere—that way, everyone has a chance to succeed,” Jing recalled in his keynote address to graduates at the Carlson School’s commencement ceremonies Monday at Mariucci Arena.


After seeking advice from a friend, Jing said he decided to follow his heart.


Mariucci Arena, the venue of 2017 Commencement Ceremony of Carlson School


“I could not have known that Alibaba would grow to today’s scale,” he told the crowd. “But I knew that their mission to help others mattered to me.”


A decade after first joining Alibaba, Jing is now the CEO of Ant Financial Services Group, a spinoff company that manages the digital payment platform Alipay. He said his experience in the CHEMBA Program changed his life.


“We are driven to discover at the University of Minnesota. I discovered a lot here: a wealth of knowledge, a global perspective, and the desire to build more bridges between the Carlson School and China,” said Jing, who has personally supported the Carlson School’s work in China. 


Sri Zaheer, Dean of Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota


“But the most important thing I discovered was that if Carlson could enable me, an ordinary guy from a small town in China, to succeed, then it is my mission to help others to succeed.”


Jing shared several stories of how he believes Ant Financial is doing just that for individual consumers and small and medium-sized enterprises, from a man with a visual impairment using his smartphone to buy groceries to a woman selling homemade beef jerky online. Ant Financial’s goal, Jing said, is “to serve and change the lives” of 2 billion people in the next decade.


Eric W. Kaler, President of University of Minnesota, Eric Jing, Sri Zaheer, Dean of Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota


He also recalled his CHEMBA admissions interview with Professor Emeritus Mahmood Zaidi, the founding director of the International Program Office. Why do you want to be part of this program? Zaidi asked.


“Dr. Mahmood, I want to know more about the world to interact with the world and to keep learning,” Jing told the professor who would become his mentor.


When Jing visited the Carlson School last year, he said he couldn’t wait to tell Zaidi “that the answer I gave him years ago about having a global vision had become reality.”


“For me, the measure of success is not money. It is whether I have enabled others to reach their dreams and to live fuller and more rewarding lives,” said Jing, who closed by advising graduates to “go out, follow your heart, and empower others in the years to come.”


Eric Jing and Prof. Mahmood Zaidi



At the commencement, Mr. Jing shared with the audiences three stories.


No.1 Blind man Mr. Zhang


The main role of the story is Mr. Zhang.


When Mr. Zhang went to the vegetable market, he had to wear a special coat with lots of pockets.His family had put different kinds of money into his pockets, such as 10, 20, and 50 RMB nots. In this way, Mr. Zhang could tell the amounts of the money when he paid, but sometimes, out of embarrasment,  he still made some mistakes.


Later, he used Alipay, which has a special function that can interpret visual information and convert it into audible information. When Mr. Zhang needs to do grocery shopping, he doesn’t need help from others as long as he brings a mobile phone.


In a system update to Alipay, this function, so important to Mr. Zhang was left out.  When Mr. Zhang phoned Alipay to ask why they overlooked the group of blind people. Staffs took his suggestions seriously and solved the problem quickly.


China has 13 million blind people and half of them use mobile phones. The function designed by Alipay benefits 13 million blind people.


No.2 Entrepreneurs in Western China


The second story is about an entrepreneur in western China.


A female entrepreneur sold homemade beef jerky online to subsidize her family, and her product appealed to consumers.


She wanted to enlarge her business. However, in China, as well as others areas in the world, it is difficult for small and medium-sized enterprises to get loan from the traditional banks: getting a loan need pledge, which many small and medium-sized enterprises don’t have. Ant Financial makes use of big data to evaluate credit grade and the credit value of her business, which makes pledge unnecessary.


Her business changed a lot because of Ant Financial. This female entrepreneur was able to receive 3,700 loans from Ant Financial, and every time she was able repay the loan on time.


Today, 6.5 million small and media-sized enterprises have received unsecured loan from Ant Financial.


No. 3 About Choices


The third story is about choices.


After graduating from the CHEMBA Program of Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota, Jing received offers from a Fortune 500 company and Alibaba ( Alipay was part of Alibaba at that time). He needed to make a choice. At last, he chose Alibaba and later was promoted to CEO of Ant Financial.


As Jing recalled, his friend used to ask him: ”If at the end of the day, the finance options offered by Alibaba were worth nothing, would you still choose Alibaba?” He chose to follow his heart: "When I joined Alibaba, I don’t know it would grow into a large scale company it is today, but their vision of helping others is crucial to me.”


Quoting Einstein's famous words, Eric said, “The measure of success is not money. It is whether I have enabled others to reach their dreams and to live fuller and more rewarding lives.Try not to become a person of success, rather to become a person of value.”


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