Tencent has announced partnerships with two Chinese banks and its cloud computing arm, the company’s latest move to boost its enterprise services business in a race with its long-term rival, cloud giant Alibaba.

According to an announcement released Tuesday, Tencent will assist the Bank of Gansu, a major commercial banking chain in the northwestern province of Gansu, with establishing an online loan management platform including improved marketing tools and risk controls. The platform will be deployed based on Tencent’s cloud computing infrastructure and distributed database system.

“Through the partnership, we hope to leverage technological capabilities and business resources from the China’s largest internet ecosystem platform,” (our translation) Liu Qing, chairman of the Bank of Gansu, said in the statement. Tencent will be its first cloud service vendor. The Hong Kong-listed Chinese bank also seeks to build cloud computing platforms for offering diversified financial services to local economy businesses.

Then on Wednesday, Tencent announced that it is partnering with China Construction Bank, one of the four biggest state-owned commercial banks, to form a financial technology laboratory. The new lab will focus on the research and development (R & D) in artificial intelligence, data analysis, and cloud computing. A Tencent spokesman said that technical operating costs for WeBank, Tencent’s online bank, could be reduced to as little as RMB 3.6 (around $0.50) per account, less than one-tenth the cost incurred by traditional Chinese banks, using its cloud-based technology innovations.

Despite lackluster performance by its online gaming segment, Tencent’s cloud computing business saw strong growth over the past year, more than doubling sales revenue to RMB 9.1 billion (around $1.35 billion) in 2018. The Shenzhen-based gaming giant provides cloud services to more than half of the Chinese gaming firms in the market, and is a leading cloud services provider for video streaming verticals, according to the company. However, it still lags Alibaba Cloud, a 10-year veteran of the industry that earned RMB 13.3 billion in revenue in its last fiscal year, including breakneck growth exceeding 90% year-on-year in the second and third quarters of its fiscal year ending Mar. 31.

During the company’s fiscal year 2018 earnings call in late March, Tencent CEO Pony Ma revealed plans to step up investments to “drive organic growth” of its cloud business and assist in the digital transformation of various industries. Ma lifted the strategic position of Tencent Cloud in the company by forming a new Cloud and Smart Industries business group (CSIG) in September, looking to ride the wave of digital growth initiatives across industries supported by the central government’s push toward global technological leadership.

Jill Shen is Shanghai-based technology reporter. She covers Chinese mobility, autonomous vehicles, and electric cars. Connect with her via e-mail: jill.shen@technode.com or Twitter: @yushan_shen

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