Profit at China's Big Five banks is declining as the popularity of internet banks such as WeBank grows. Can China's banks find their place in the new fintech world?
The Asian payments landscape is rapidly evolving as consumers, retailers, banks and corporations have new options and channels to move their money. Although the traditional debit/credit, ACH, and wire transfer rails all remain in place, the ecosystem that uses them has vastly expanded due to open APIs and enhanced mobile technologies. And in certain countries, like China, the race to cashless may already have been won.
The digital payments space in India had been evolving steadily in the last couple of years. However, the economy had a big bang moment when Prime Minister Modi announced the Demonetization drive on November 8, 2016. The stated intention was to reduce the level of money laundering and counterfeit currency in the economy, and to raise the level of transparency to ensure that the number of people paying income tax increased in line with rising incomes. It was indeed a commendable move for the Indian economy which exhibits high levels of corruption, money laundering and tax evasion.
A decade ago, going to the bank in China meant queuing for an hour and suffering what was often very poor customer service. In a retail banking market with limited competition, there was little push to do anything different. Today, the industry is shifting rapidly. With online payment platforms like WeChat Pay and Alipay, digital payments are a reality for customers. Financial product distribution platforms like Lufax and CreditEase make it incredibly easy for customers to invest their money. P2P lenders are bringing new financial products and choices to the market. Customer communications has gone from an afterthought, to a key part of bank’s strategies.
China’s financial industry faces a challenging year ahead. Economic growth is slowing, money outflows are testing the resolve of regulators and reform remains a challenge. Yet China remains at the center of the fintech universe as tech giants Lufax, PingAn, and Ant Financial continue to re-define banking in the world’s biggest country.
The Indian economy is not likely to forget November 8, 2016. Not only was it the day that Donald Trump (now President-elect) won the election, it was also the day that Prime Minster Modi announced demonetization in India. The two events have already assumed seismic significance since, compared to which all other issues are dwarfed. The Indian banking industry is gearing itself to face the effect of demonetization. All of a sudden, digitization has become much more than a fashionable term to speak about in industry events.
High minimum investment thresholds, the expense of professional advice, and the general lack of access to wealth management tools have all served as challenges for small retail investors in China. However, fintech is empowering them by lowering the costs of, and expanding access to, wealth management products, thereby making it easier to manage one’s wealth.
Predictions are that digital payments will account for 20% of all Chinese retail purchases by 2020, a staggering amount and one that is challenging not only the banks, but China UnionPay and regulators themselves. The China Digital Payments 2016 report looks at how new business models, market entrants and regulations are rapidly transforming China’s gigantic payment industry.
Fintech: The BAT (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent) now all have a private bank ready to launch and remote account opening is likely to happen this year. As the BAT continue their push into financial services, what does that mean for traditional and digital banking in 2016? How big a chunk of business can they take from banking giants such as ICBC?
Blockchain: In 2015, conversation around Bitcoin shifted to blockchains. What will the conversation be in 2016 and what will that mean for bitcoin and blockchain in China? Is there even a market for blockchain in China?
Equities: Chinese mainland markets had one of their most tumultuous years ever in 2015, losing as much as a third of their value over three weeks in June. Even so, the Shanghai Composite still finished the year almost 10 percent highter, beating Wall Street. What can we expect this year? Also, what are the potential challenges and bright spots for the Shanghai-HK connect and an upcoming Shenzhen connect?
Alibaba was one of the biggest IPOs in history and the company has been on an acquisition tear in the past couple of years. Will Alibaba's initiatives and acquisitions redefine the financial industry?
Bitcoin hit a wall in China in 2013, yet grew in 2014 as China's exchanges became the largest in the world. What will 2015 hold for the digital currency and its peers?
The Shanghai HK connect was one of the most talked about initiatives in 2014, yet was the launch a success and will it continue this year?
Online payments, e-commerce, private banks, hedge funds and digital currency are just a few of the key drivers that have reshaped the industry in 2014 and will continue to drive change and reform in 2015.
The ATM market in China has maintained strong growth in the last ten years with the deployed number of ATMs peaking at 520,000 units in 2013, surpassing the number of ATMs deployed in the US and making China the largest ATM market in the world.
2013 will remembered as an incredibly dynamic year for China’s financial services industry. From the increasing number of hedge funds in the market to the emergence and regulation of Bitcoin, industry observers, investors, participants and regulators have had their work cut out for them keeping up with the market.
Few initiatives in the past couple of years have captured the attention of China’s financial services community more than the recently opened Shanghai Free Trade Zone. Situated in the eastern part of Shanghai and encompassing 29km2 of land which, like the rest of Pudong, was predominantly farmland as little as ten years ago.
What happens when you combine one of the most promising virtual currencies in the world with the largest country in the world? When consumers in a country are able to shift the price of gold in a matter of a few days through increased demand, what could they do to a virtual currency like Bitcoin? As the Chinese Yuan is a capital controlled currency that needs approvals to move in and out of the country, what are the potential regulatory impacts?