Asia Financial Industry Blog

At first blush, Didi Chuxing doesn't seem in dire need of a new business model. As China's top ride-hailing app, the Beijing-based firm boasts more than half a billion users and millions of drivers. Granted, it has been burning money for years, but that's par for the course among unicorns - tech startups valued at US$1 billion or more - and some analysts believe Didi could raise up to US$80 billion in an expected 2019 IPO.

Facebook is reportedly developing a cryptocurrency that will be backed by the U.S. dollar for the Indian remittances market. Known as a "stablecoin," the digital currency will allow users of Facebook's WhatsApp messaging app to transfer money. Stablecoins have many applications besides remittance, including peer-to-peer payments, the purchase of goods and services online, and trading of digital currency. Facebook's digital currency is at a nascent stage and won't be released for some time, according to a December Bloomberg report.

Years ago, traditional POS machines only provided basic processing that were more convenient than cash transactions, but provided little help when it came to sales analysis. Smart POS started gaining traction in 2014 and grew rapidly as merchants juggled many different payment channels. A smart POS can process QR code, bank card, Quick Pass, as well as analyze business data, maintain membership details and combine online–offline sales. In December, UnionPay and Alipay both launched new acquiring products.

At the end of 2017, regulations tightened around the cash loan industry in China and locked 36% as the highest APR lenders can collect on any loans. One year later, although many platforms have disappeared, others have transformed and are back at the forefront of lending in China.

The last eighteen months have been a bumpy road for initial coin offerings (ICO’s). Last year we reported that China had banned them completely citing concerns over large scale fraud and regulatory bodies across the world have begun to take a tougher stance on the practice. Yet, despite these setbacks, $5 billion dollars was raised by ICOs in 2017, with that figure being surpassed in the first three months of 2018 alone. Nonetheless, in a response to the negativity around ICO’s, Security Token offering (STO) have emerged as an alternative form of blockchain based funding. We believe that the subtle differences in both offerings may be critical in beginning a new period of reconciliation and agreement between regulators and technology companies seeking finance under the blockchain.

Double 11, the biggest e-commerce shopping festival, had another amazing result in 2018. On November 11th 2018, total online sales in China reached RMB314.2 billion (USD45.2 billion) in one single day.

In an interim report released last month Australia's Banking Royal Commission has highlighted the misconduct, greed, and even criminality involved in the Australian financial services industry. Set up in December 2017, the commission has worked through over 700,000 documents to investigate the dealings of some of Australia’s largest financial companies. The commission has heard from victims and cross-examined some of the key figures in the industry. The results are damning and are likely to spark much greater support for tougher regulation on the banks in the future. However, a battered, bruised, and riskless financial system is no good to anyone and may end up causing further disruption to the economy. It’s important that the government finds the right balance.

China's bank card market is large. Over 9 billion domestic payment cards will be in use by the end of 2018, a nearly 35% increase from the 6.7 billion in 2016. Even though the market is replete with card providers, the clearing business has been always dominated by the only one licensed clearing institution, China UnionPay (CUP), for both domestic and cross-border RMB transactions. That is, until now.

In China, financial cloud has become a key goal for financial institutions in 2016. According to ‘the 13th Five-year Plan’, by the end of 2020, banks’ online business system should all be transferred to cloud and more than 60% of their other business systems should be moved online. With this clear direction, banks are taking actions. The China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT) found that in 2017, 42% of financial institutions are applying to use cloud, whilst 47% are in the process of planning the transition to cloud as companies seek to establish agile banking infrastructure.

On September 18th 2018 the MAS launched the Singapore Quick Response Code (SGQR). Within the next year, 27 different mobile wallet providers including PayNow, NETS, GrabPay, Liquid Pay, and Singtel Dash will incorporate the new standardised code. The SGQR is the first of its kind globally and represents a significant change to the e-payment landscape. Interoperability is seen as a key infrastructural requirement for mobile payments and will have several impacts on new and incumbent firms in the market. 

At the end of last month, another Chinese fintech company Samoyed Holding filed for $80 million IPO on the New York Stock Exchange. The company provides consumer finance services for the Chinese millennials. Its main business is the credit card balance transfer business, counting for 74.7% of its 2017 turnover.

Financial results from China's banks are improving recently as tight regulation is limiting the expansion of 3rd party competition, while overall bank profitability is increasing.

During the Internet Security Summit in Beijing on August 21st, Ant Financial announced the official upgrade for the security control of its digital payment platform – Alipay. The more secured process is achieved through what is called a 'Delayed Payment' (DP) function.

One morning in July, investors of Niubanjin Finance, a P2P platform with balance of 39 billion RMB at that time, tried to check their balance online, but only saw a system maintenance notification. They started feeling anxious and visited the local office in Hangzhou, only to find that the office had closed, and two policemen there to record their investment information, as proof of victims.

More and more Chinese individuals have accumulated a great amount of wealth thanks to the country’s economy boom in the past decades. As a result, the demand of wealth management is growing. With the help of new technologies, mobile wealth management (MWM) platforms are attracting more and more investors in China recently.

Fortune released the latest Global Top 500 list recently. 120 Chinese companies made the list, while US took the lead with 126 companies. Banking was the leading industry in China as China's banks come to the forefront again.

President Trump’s latest controversial policy of imposing tariffs on the EU, Canada and China has shook global trade. With around $34bn worth of tariffs on Chinese goods (with more tariffs proposed), he aims to reduce the US’s trade deficit with the hope that American consumers will buy less Chinese goods and more American goods, thus increasing net exports and GDP. However, China has retaliated with its own tariffs against the US (worth the same amount). It is clear that neither side wants to back down first so who will win this trade war?

The 20th China-EU high summit was held in Beijing this past week and attracted a lot of attention due to the current global trade tensions. As the speculation on trade war continues, the EU and China decided to stand together against Trump’s attack on the global trade system.

We have talked about the trend before, but starting to see more and more cooperation between fintech companies and banks. China Construction Bank Wenzhou Branch is now in cooperation with Alipay for a hospital payment service channel, ICBC is supporting WeChat’s QR code payment and JD finance and Citic Bank have issued over 2 million co-branded credit cards called the ‘White Card’. We're also starting to better understand the potential business models for both sides.

China's tech giants are increasingly focused on positioning themselves as technology providers rather than financial services providers. A recent 3-second blockchain remittance from Hong Kong to the Philippines, was supported by Alipay HK and Philippine's GCash, cleared by Standard Chartered. Caifu Hao, a wealth management platform launched by Ant Financial, opened their AI-functioned investment tools to fund companies. Tencent recently signed contracts with a few banks to provide a financial cloud structure for acquiring and managing growing clients.

June 25th 2018, Ant Financial launched its E-wallet cross-border remittance service based on blockchain technology. Customers using Alipay HK can transfer money in real time to another E-wallet Gcash based in the Philippines.

June 20 2018

The HK Virtual Bank License

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The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) published revised ‘Guideline on Authorization of Virtual Banks’ on May 30th, 2018, opening the gateway of a new banking type – virtual bank.

Ant Financial was valued at $150 billion recently, making it the biggest unicorn globally. As it completed its most recent $10 billion financing, the company has made it clear that Ant’s future is being a tech provider to the financial industry. 

On May 9th, a mini-app on WeChat called ‘Little Agreement’ showed up, providing an interface to create agreements on the Ethereum blockchain for Wechat Users. A few hours later, the mini-app was removed.

Cryptocurrency control in China seems to be getting stronger since the ban on September 4th, 2017. In a bid to further limit the use of crypto in China, the National Committee of Experts on Internet Financial Security Technology (IFCERT) is now monitoring 56 platforms that offer over the counter (OTC) cryptocurrency transactions.

The (Qingdao) Blockchain Research Company released a set of ratings for various blockchain projects on May 17th, 2018. The company is related to China Center for Information Industry Development (CCID), led by Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), part of the national government, but it would be wrong to read that this is any sort of acceptance of crypto by the Chinese government.

Blockchain technology has become one of the most popular topics in China today as it moves beyond conversations in the tech industry to normal individuals in their everyday lives. It is easy to catch a conversation about ideas of blockchain at a restaurant, on a bus, or in a club from people excited about the investment opportunities of blockchain projects, or even just blockchain ideas.

On April 29th, the CSRC (China Security Regulatory Committee) officially released the Administrative Measures for Foreign-Invested Securities Companies.

China's banks have lost significant market share to fintech companies like Ant Finance and Tencent, especially in the mobile payment space, which the fintech companies have used as a basis to move into other market segments such as online lending. Banks have been distanced from consumers and there are concerns that people do not need banks any more. Are things really that bad?

On April 7th, 2018, Alibaba announced an investment of 4.5 billion RMB (7.1 bn USD) to Huitongda, showing the intention to develop business in the rural areas of China. They will cooperate on supply source, logistics, technology and life services.

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