With the craze surrounding Bitcoin, many are concerned that the crypotcurrency’s price is over valued and a result of too much hype. However, Blockchain, the technology behind Bitcoin, is captivating the attention of many and is widely regarded as the future of technology. So much so in fact, many countries have already launched or begun looking into the possibility of creating their own Blockhain based, state sponsored cryptocurrencies.

With Bitcoin recently hitting an all- time high of $14,000 USD on December 7th 2017, many have been asking questions about whether the cryptocurrency’s price will continue to rise in the future or if it is simply a speculative bubble waiting to burst. The currency has risen by over $13,000 USD since the 1st of January 2017, a remarkable, and for some unfathomable surge considering it has no tangible assets or value at its core.

Since Chinese online micro lending companies Qudian and Paipai Dai have gone public on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), the government has been closely following the development of the micro-credit industry. Scrutiny has fallen not only their business model but also on their high revenue, which specifically caught people’s eyes. The Ningbo Jinzhou Financial Office already shut down two micro lending institutions. On November 21, 2017, the General Office of the State Council issued an urgent notice on suspending approval on the establishment of internet small loan companies. With the arising attention around financial risks, could this be the end of the industry? 

Singapore’s PayNow and Thailand’s PromptPay are set to link their national digital payment systems, thereby making it easier to send money between the two countries.

Two weeks after the 19th Communist Party of China (CPC) national congress, the Chinese state council set up the Financial Stability and Development Committee (FSDC), as the institution to ensure the stability of the financial system and provide solutions for future development.

In the venture capital industry, a ‘unicorn’ refers to any technology start-up company which has reached a valuation of over USD $1 billion, as determined by private or public investment. The term was devised by venture capitalist Aileen Lee, founder of CowboyVC, a venture capital fund based in Palo Alto. She discovered that only 0.07% of software start-ups founded in the 2000s would ever reach a $1bn valuation, thereby being as rare as finding a unicorn.

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has introduced a number of measures recently in the capital and commodity markets to improve the quality of market infrastructure and the depth of trading that takes place. We will look at three examples of the recent changes being made by the SEBI here.

It was reported on September 20th 2017 that 17 companies involved in the consumer finance sector had a net profit of 974 million Yuan for the first half of 2017, which was approximately the total net profit for all of 2016. This explosive growth has caused growing concerns amongst regulators who are considering ways to implement a crackdown on the industry.

It is quite obvious that Alipay is the largest mobile payments platform in the world, with approximately 400 million registered users. Third-party payment platforms play an integral role in Chinese consumers’ everyday transactions because of the multi-faceted services offered, such as ecommerce and mobile payment transactions.

According to iResearch data released in September 2014, the Gross Monetary Value of China’s third-party online payments reached 1,840.66 billion Yuan (USD $299 billion), with year on year growth of 64.1%.

The People’s Bank of China (the PBOC) started issuing the Payment Business License since May 2011 to non-banking institutions. Up until March 2015, the PBOC had issued 270 payment licenses.

Qudian lnc, the Chinese micro lending company, has filed for a U.S. IPO at the NYSE earlier last month. It plans to raise up to USD $750 million in capital to spend on strategic acquisitions, marketing and borrower engagement. In only a few years, Qudian has become an eye catching internet lending company with a valuation of over $6.9 billion USD. Qudian’s remarkable success in such a short period of time, shows how profitable the cash loan market can be, as well as the incredible opportunities for transformation that can arise when collaborating with internet giants like Alibaba. 

The Financial services sector is integrating AI (artificial intelligence), machine learning and predictive analytics at a remarkable rate for both customer-facing and back-end operations. One element commonly associated with AI, but one that has not yet made a strong impact, are ‘chatbots,’ computer programs designed to simulate conversation with human users. However, this could be about to change, with large financial institutions starting to experiment and launch products leveraging AI technology.

The Indian central bank, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is considering the possibility of introducing a fiat cryptocurrency in the country.

Bitcoin and blockchain technology has raised the specter of dis-intermediation for the leading global banks in the last few years.

The equity market cross-connects between Hong Kong and Shanghai, and Hong Kong and Shenzhen have begun to show signs of growing maturity.

China’s Transsion Holdings, one of the major mobile phone manufacturers in the world and second largest smartphone vendor in Africa is known for owning mobile phone brands TECNO, itel and Infinix. It was the first Chinese smartphone manufacturer to explore the African market and have a smartphone plant in Africa.

Today, its mobile phone brands have experienced tremendous success with itel being the second largest handset vendor in India with approximately 8 million sold handsets within only 8 months of its launch. Whilst, Infinix is successfully winning over the Nigerian and Kenya smartphone market through 'Infinix Mobility' which reported that it sold over 4 million devices in Africa within a 16-month period.

The crypto space is evolving rapidly, from bitcoin in 2009 to over 900 different crypto-currencies in 2017. The space is emerging and developing at an exponential rate. Blockchain technology has been following a similar trend with more and more potential uses being found every day. The potential for innovation is endless, this is only the beginning.

There has been significant news published in the last week regarding regulation around initial coin offerings (ICOs) especially around the Chinese Government's position on ICOs in China. Finally, at 3.00pm, September 4th this Monday, seven important Chinese government departments including the PBOC, issued an announcement to stop any ICO transactions and defined ICOs in China as illegal fund raising. Strict ICO regulatory is the right choice but is this ‘One-size-fits-all Policy’ the right answer?

Ant Financial is well established as the largest fintech in China. These past two years have been excellent for the company as they reached 450 million users with an average expenditure of 16,000 RMB through the Alipay platform. They recently started to make use of Alibaba’s acquired controlling stake of company Lazada in Singapore, which has given them access to most of the SEA market. In addition, Ant bid for Moneygram in the United States, and funded bike sharing service Gobee.bike’s launch in Hong Kong (being the first bike sharing company of the kind launched in HK). However, the important question here is: what awaits the company in the near future? Three words. Diversification, internationalisation and experimentation.

In August this year, WeBank announced that its lending product “Wei Li Dai” (WeChat Loan) has exceeded RMB100 billion (USD14.7 billion).

For several weeks earlier this year, the PBOC (Peoples Bank of China) focused on bitcoin exchanges and halted crypto-currency withdrawals from the main exchanges; now ICO’s (initial coin offerings) have grabbed their attention. With ICO’s growing in popularity they are hard to ignore, In China since the beginning of the year there have been 65 ICO’s, that have raised over 2.6 billion RMB. As such, the PBOC has been considering banning ICO’s as they expose investors to a very high risk and “illegally absorb public funds.”  

Anti-money laundering activities are taking the center stage in Indian financial markets. The recent crackdown on shell companies, and brokerages helping them, by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) is part of a concerted effort by the Government to clean up the financial markets in India.

An efficient credit checking system is critical for the development of retail financial services. But in China, the individual credit system is not as advanced as the ones in US or Europe with the People's Bank of China (PBOC) credit system covering only about 25% of the entire Chinese population. The lack of credit investigation system creates a major issue for the risk control process of the financial services, especially on the inclusive finance side.

China has been at the vanguard lately when it comes to p2p lending, and even though there has been new-found focus on the risk of p2p and the creation of the Fintech Committee meant to regulate Fintech in China, companies keep developing and implementing new models that are cutting edge and in process of revitalizing markets that have barely been touched due to their inherent risk, and in the process of doing so, they have come up with successful business models that have excellent prospects of development.

Opening a completely private commercial bank with no government ownership is not a suitable choice in every country. In some countries, like the US, private commercial banks play an important role in their economy and provide loans to small and medium enterprises. However, in Indonesia, the government allowed private commercial banks in the 1980s and it turned out to be a failure. Founders used the banks as a tool to collect money, and invested in real estate in order to profit, at the cost of a serious economic bubble.

QR-codes have been a boon for China's 3rd Party Payment providers, but due to QR-Code standardization and the launch of China's Online Settlement Platform for Non-Bank Payment Institutions, more colloquially known just as Wanglian, QR-codes could now be the payment giants' biggest challenge.

China Fintech has been developing rapidly. According to an EY report, in 2016, China's fintech industry attracted US$8.58 billion in investment, the highest in the world. However, while the UK's fintech regulatory sandbox became a case-study for governments globally including Singapore and Australia, there is still a big blank in China. For example, China's P2P industry developed without any regulation since it started in 2007. The government only started monitoring the industry in 2016, after serious criminal cases which caused social panic happened.

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.

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