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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The HK Virtual Bank License

Written by || 20 Jun 2018

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.

On Feburary 22nd, the Credit Union, also known by its official name “Baihang Credit”, has finally received its business license from the government which is also the first individual credit checking license.

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? 

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

Why Asia matters for ICOs

Written by || 10 Jul 2017

In the second of our ICO series, we look at the role that Asia plays in Initial Coin Offerings.

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).

Qupital LogoThere 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. 

As the Indian economy grows rapidly, there is an opportunity to bring ever larger number of Indians into the banking mainstream through both public and private banks.

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?

In the last year, Panda bonds (the name of mainland RMB denominated bonds from a non-domestic issuer) have become increasingly competitive and attractive for investors. What explains the increased usage of inland bonds in contrast to slightly diminishing performance of the Dim Sum (RMB denominated bond issued abroad)? How do we define the current interrelationship of the two. And what is in store for the future of the Chinese bond market?

Nothing is easy in the banking industry, and it's getting tougher in China. The Chinese central bank (PBOC) used to control banks’ lending and deposit interest rate by setting high and low limits, as the top line and bottom line in the chart. If a bank in China can always lend/borrow at the limit rates, the margin would not change much over the years. However, the story is not that simple.

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