China's Big Four state-owned banks, renowned for their massive market capitalization and close ties to the Chinese government, have long played a key role in the PRC's traditional financial system. An important challenge they - Bank of China (BOC), Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) China Construction Bank (CCB) and Agricultural and Commercial Bank of China (ACBC) - face today is developing a digital-first strategy. Among the four, only CCB has has set up a dedicated fintech unit.
It wasn't so long ago that China's tech firms were panned as second-rate copycats. The best example might be Baidu, the search giant that is often less effective than Google in Chinese-language searches.
Tencent's WeChat messaging app changed the equation, establishing a mobile-internet ecosystem that is the envy of its global competitors. WeChat has over 1 billion monthly users (mostly in mainland China) and is the No. 5 most used app globally. Its payment platform has expanded to 25 countries. Thanks in part to WeChat business Tencent had a strong third quarter in 2018. Revenue reached $11.7 billion, up 24% over a year earlier, while profits rose 20% year-on-year to $3.4 billion.
If at first you don't succeed in buying a money-transfer company, try again. Just make sure you go shopping in a friendly jurisdiction. That strategy paid off for the Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial as it acquired the UK's WorldFirst for $700 million in mid February.
Blockchain technology's momentum has grown significantly in China and it’s clear that this technology is here to stay. Since Chinese New Year, frequent good news has accelerated this trend – The People’s Daily published a whole page talking about how to develop this technology, and it’s been a hot topic even in the ongoing “two sessions” National Party Congress.
The top three tech giants in China - Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent, previously did not talk much about their blockchain development, but with a much more receptive public and regulatory environment, they have revealed a bit more about where they have been focused.
In 2017, the Chinese smartphone market saw its first ever decline, with -4% YoY growth in smartphone shipments and -4.9% YoY growth in smartphone sales.
In China, bar code payments (including QR codes) dominate the mobile payment market. Using a bar code to pay is easy, but comes with risks. In 2017, about RMB 90 million ($14 million) was stolen due to fraud. On December 25th, 2017, the People’s Bank of China (the PBOC) released new regulation to standardize bar code payments. The regulation will come into effect from April 1st, 2018.
In August this year, WeBank announced that its lending product “Wei Li Dai” (WeChat Loan) has exceeded RMB100 billion (USD14.7 billion).
Hike messenger, a popular phone messaging service app in India, has recently decided to introduce payment services on its platform.
A few days ago, the upstart Chinese manufacturer of android-based smartphones Xiaomi launched a public beta of their new online money-market fund. With Chinese tech companies furiously investing in and creating platforms bundling key products and services together, could we see Xiaomi competing directly with Alipay and Wechat in the near future?