Recently, there has been a rise in Chinese internet giants investing or collaborating with banks. This year alone, some of China’s largest internet companies – Baidu, Ant Financial, Jingdong Finance, and Tencent – formed strategic partnerships with some of China’s biggest banks. All these companies, while being competitors, have risen to be at the forefront of the FinTech movement in China in recent years. Therefore, collaborating and partnering with these powerful banks give the companies a head-start in this developing market.
Asia is the heart of the rapidly growing FinTech movement. Singapore is one of the countries in the region vying for the top spot as Asia’s FinTech hub. With Singapore constantly getting closer to being the industry’s hub in Asia, it is not surprising that there is competition from other regions within Asia – particularly Hong Kong.
While no official steps have yet been taken, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) in Beijing has raised the possibility of a regulatory sandbox environment for future ICOs as the government works through its options for potential regulations, focusing on providing a legal framework for Initial Coin Offerings in China (ICOs) moving forward. In addition, options such as investor education, project review, and increased information disclosure have been mentioned as targets for a new framework. The PBOC’s previous emphasis on Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Know Your Customer (KYC) protocols are also expected to continue with ICO regulations. Other potential regulatory possibilities include requiring companies to have a working product before their ICO, requiring more information disclosure including risk and investor assessments, and reducing speculative investments.
Over the past few weeks, little-known ICOs have grabbed the media's attention. ICOs, or 'Initial Coin Offerings', have become a new way for individuals and start-ups to obtain funding. A significant number of these ICOs are originating from China, so we decided to take a look at the dynamics behind these new funding vehicles.
MSCI, the influential provider of stock market indexes, has made the long-awaited decision to add Mainland Chinese A shares to its emerging markets index. 222 stocks from the Shanghai and Shenzhen exchanges will be added to the index. These 222 shares will represent just 0.7% of the emerging markets index, which is tracked by and estimated $1.6 trillion in funds.
Historically speaking, it has been very difficult for Chinese investors and institutions to invest their money overseas. The Chinese government has several reasons for tightly regulating capital outflows, the most important of which is controlling the value of the yuan. However, as a continuation of China’s broad plan to become more integrated into the globalized economy, the government has been encouraging cross-border investment through programs that allow Chinese investors to invest overseas, and programs that allow foreign institutions to invest in the mainland.
As China's FinTech industry, led by Tencent and Alibaba, has exploded in recent years, regulators have been watching the industry’s growth carefully, in order to manage risk and protect consumers while still encouraging growth and innovation. In May 2017, The People’s Bank of China (PBOC), the country’s central bank and main regulator, announced the creation of a FinTech committee under the PBOC’s Technology Department to research the impact of the sector on financial markets and China’s monetary policy. In addition, the committee will also act as a coordinating body for the PBOC, as well as research and promote the implementation of regulatory technology (RegTech).
There is a large financing gap in the Hong Kong market, particularly for SMEs who have become increasingly frustrated with the lack of available financing. Thus, it was not a shock when Alibaba – the Chinese e-commerce conglomerate – invested $2 million into Qupital, a Hong Kong based online platform that allows mainly SMEs raise finance against their receivables by connecting them with professional investors and family offices.
There is a big blank space on individual credit scoring in China. The national individual credit reporting system was founded in 2005 by the Credit Reference Center, a part of the People's Bank of China (PBOC). But at the end of 2015, only 870 million individuals were included in the database, and only 370 million people’ credit history was in the system, covering just 26% of the whole population. On Jan 5th 2015, the Chinese government authorized 8 companies to prepare their own personal credit scoring platforms. One of them, Sesame Credit, is owned by Ant Finance and is the largest platform, but remains unlicensed.
Yu’E Bao, the world’s largest money-market fund, may have to limit its individual investment amount at RMB500,000 (USD$72464), which is half of the amount the limit is now. The implications aren't for certain at this point, but it could mean the end of the platform's growth in the future.
A press announcement on April 10th 2017 showed that Tencent, a Chinese online giant, led an investment in India’s electronic commerce company Flipkart, alongside eBay and Microsoft. The total amount was $1.4 billion and Tencent contributed $700 million, eBay $500 million and Microsoft $200 million. This was the first investment for Tencent into India’s e-commerce market. But the question remains, will it be a good move for the company?
The Chinese bond markets are becoming more accessible through regulatory initiatives and greater foreign investor participation.
On the last day of March 2017, Wang’lian (Internet Payment Union) started its trial operation after one year of preparation. The first group of companies that have joined the platform include: Wechat Pay, China Merchants Bank, Bank of China, and Chinabank Payment. The platform will effectively cut the 3rd party payment networks of Ant Financial and Tencent, and is likely the most important payment industry development this year, and it may not bode well for China's dominant digital payment companies.
Last week, at The Fifth Session of the twelfth National People's Congress in China, Mr. Zhou Xiaochuan, the chief governor of People’s Bank of China (PBOC), encouraged the development of Fintech during the press conference among all topics about finance reform and development in China.