China Races Ahead In Financial Innovation

Bloomberg: A Hundred Apps Bloom in China as Millions Bank on Their Phones
Financial innovation is bubbling up around the globe, but China is where digital banking, investing, and lending have gone mainstream. Technology companies armed with financial apps are challenging banks and other intermediaries for a market with 1.3 billion people and $7.8 trillion of deposits. Tencent’s WeChat (called Weixin in Chinese), Alibaba’s Alipay arm, and Baidu are leading the way with digital wallets that let consumers manage their money via their phones.

“Financial innovation is being discussed everywhere—in New York, London, San Francisco, Hong Kong,” says Zennon Kapron, managing director of Shanghai-based consulting firm Kapronasia. “But mainland China is where it has gone beyond talk and is really having an impact. What we’re seeing here is the future of global banking.”

...Song Fuqiang, who lives about 370 kilometers (230 miles) from Beijing in Hebei province, owns a textile business and uses Alipay every day. The 31-year-old has even put about 40,000 yuan into Alibaba’s money market fund, Yu’E Bao. “Checks are so outdated, so few people use them,” he says. “I don’t bring money when I go out. I use Alipay to pay for everything.”
The irony is China is probably the least friendly to banking competitors because the industry in mainly state-owned. While these firms may do well, the government will tilt the playing field in favor of the SOEs.

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