Chairman of ICBC welcomes fintech regs. No really?

Written by Zennon Kapron || August 21 2015

Earlier this week, Finance Asia reported that Yang Kaishen, CEO and Chair of the Industrial Commercial Bank of China stated that recent moves by regulators would be good for innovation. the chair of one of the biggest SOEs in the country is in favor of legislation that cuts off the legs of innovation? Well, I'll be...

Realistically, the regulations will be a good thing in the long-term, but it still does seem a bit self-serving to be in favor of something that effectively does help your competition. Yang went on to say that when banks develop their own internal technology and systems that it should be considered fintech as well - which is fair enough.

The challenge is that the fintech that China's banks are coming up with isn't what the consumers want. I was actually on Mr Yang's bank's site today and was trying to access my online banking. Previously, I had struggled to get it running on Chrome and Safari, but after some tinkering, I had it running on both about two months ago. Today, Google informed me that the plugin was no longer supported (presumably because it was not from this decade) and Safari just wouldn't pull up.

That, in a nutshell, describes the challenge sitting in front of Chinese banks. To pay my rent using Alipay, it takes me 10 presses on my phone, including the 6 digit passcode for WeChat Payments. To pay on ICBC, (in addition to the browser downgrade I apparently need), I need to login using a USB key and it would take me 14 clicks and typing about 40 characters. Granted, much better than carrying your money in a paper bag from one bank to another to pay your landlord, but still not great.

The real question will be on where the fintech comes from. In China right now it's the BATs. But...the government seems to be moving against them. The 'small fintech' scene in China is dominated by P2P lenders and mobile wallets that don't stand a chance. So who's left? The big banks? We'll see. I think it will still be awhile before ICBC appoints their own Chief Innovation Officer.