China is emerging as a leading fintech market on a global scale. Half of the global investment in financial technology is happening in Asia, especially China, according to the World Economic Forum.
Contrary to trends in many developed countries, Chinese consumers are ready to embrace fintech technology as seen from the common use of Alipay, WeChat Pay, and e-commerce services such as Taobao and JD. The willingness of Chinese customers to embrace fintech offerings is beyond expected supply, creating opportunities for both incumbent and new financial services providers.
According to a report published by DBS and EY, 40% of Chinese consumers are open to using fintech payment methods compared to 4% in Singapore. The rate of fintech participation in wealth management and lending also tend to be higher. The report says that China has moved beyond the point of disruption compared to the West which is only just reached the tipping point of inflection.
Chinese lives are deeply integrated with technology giants both financially and non-financially. China already accounts for 47% of global digital retail sales, resulting in a massive domestic retail market in a closed digital economy. The digital generation in China is also driving the online retail market and leading the charge in China’s mobile payment adoptions. 66% of post-1990’s millennials shop and 54% of them bank via their mobile phones according to the EY report.
Major markets for fintech are also under-banked or unbanked populations in China. Traditional banks are not winning consumer’s’ trust, and a rising number of young Chinese consumers end up turning to digital disruptors with higher interests rates. They are more risk-embracing and less reluctant to greater propensity to spend than the older generations. The Chinese younger customers also demand higher-quality and client offerings.
“We hope the new generation of the financial system will be more inclusive focusing on the underserved or unserved including small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs),” says Jonathan Lu, vice chairman of Alibaba Group and CEO of Alipay during his DAVOS 2017 panel discussion.
“In a small county in Tibet, 90% of overall electronic payments are made through mobile payments. This number is the highest mobile penetration that can bridge the gap for the people in the West and the developing East,” says Lu sharing his optimism for new opportunities.
Moreover, the willingness and trust Chinese customers put money into fintech give them a huge advantage compared to the Western world. Many of the Western companies are slow to adopt financial disruption system compared to the US.
China possesses unusual advantages of rapid urbanization, regulatory acquiescence, a massive and underserved SME market, escalating e-commerce growth, and explosion in online and mobile penetration that create a fertile ground for innovation in commerce, banking, and financial services as shared by EY report.
To meet the growing demand of online financial technology, the Chinese technology giants BAT are aggressively creating all-encompassing platforms with the aim of embedding their services into customers’ lives.
“There has been a lot of experiment around the financial technology,” says David Craig, President of Thomson Reuters during the panel discussion, “Financial industries have not historically been particularly good at collaboration. It tends to be a lot of group of people sort of collaborating, sort of competing. And this [fintech] actually offers a way changing how we operate and things work.”
China is already positioned to be the next global financial technology leader. There seems to be little doubt whether it will happen. It is, rather, a matter of timing.