Bitcoin, a virtual currency traded online, was not invented in China, yet China is where 80% of the virtual “coins” are minted and 90% of the transactions are made. Currently, the global bitcoin market amounts to some $14.5 billion, roughly the same amount of money as Apple’s European back taxes. If the virtual currency’s popularity continues to grow, decisions made by Chinese investors and regulators may determine whether bitcoin fades to a historical footnote, like Napster or the eight-track tape, or becomes the silicon cornerstone of a new global financial order. A combination of factors thrust China into this decisive role.
The upsurge in mobile transaction services used through smartphones is at the heart of a sudden expansion of the online financial services industry in China. This is a diverse and dynamic marketplace with investment, small-lending companies, peer to peer (P2P) lending, and most recently the emergence of the first batch of online-only banks: MYbank, 30% owned by Ant Financial (founded by Alibaba), and WeBank, which is 30% owned by Tencent. These new services provide a much-needed expansion of financial access for Chinese consumers and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), that have long been underserved by the state-dominated banking system. What lies ahead for China’s online banks?
Currently the most valuable fintech company in China, Alibaba’s Ant Financial owns a myriad of businesses: China’s largest payment tool AliPay and a variety of financial services in areas like banking, funds, insurance, credit scoring systems, etc. With over 400 million active users, it has ambitions to expand further into the Chinese hinterland as well as into global markets—something never done by Chinese financial companies before. How will Ant realize its elephantine goals? What is the logic behind its diverse businesses and which one is the focus? Can Ant become the Taobao of the financial industry? We offer some answers.
Ten years from now, business historians will offer a number of reasons financial services had changed so radically since 2016, from general advances in technology to the regulatory reaction to the crash of 2008. But one factor appears likely to stand out above all the others: the blockchain, a distributed database that serves as the backend of the virtual currency Bitcoin. Today, financial services are investing billions in blockchain technology. Many believe it will lead to a radical simplification of banking and payment systems everywhere—a world where money and other assets take nanoseconds to transfer, cannot be lost or stolen, and require no intermediaries to process.
In a short space of time Alibaba’s Ant Financial has created—and scaled—a diverse set of financial products and services: from online payments to cloud computing and data services.
The government has finally issued guidelines to regulate China’s internet finance industry, but the devil may lie in the yet-to-come details.
In this series on The Chinapreneurs, we look at entrepreneurs’ experiences in starting a business in China. In the first one, Kevin Zhao, CEO of Wangli Bank, elaborates on starting up in China’s fast-changing internet finance sector.
This week saw the end of Yahoo China, the Shanghai Composite Index peaked, and Uber found an unlikely partner in the Warren Buffet-backed BYD.
What industry incumbents can learn from the forces that guide market entry.
The week that was: China may trump the US to become the world’s largest economy soon; the Chinese P2P lending sector to get new regulations; Xiaomi shells out a cool $3.6 million for a two-word domain name. China to be the World’s Largest Economy Soon For the last decade pundits have been prophesizing that China is […]