$41 Trillion in Mobile payments – China tech target digital banking

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$41 Trillion was the size of China’s mobile payments market in 2018. It is perhaps counter-intuitive when the payments market is more than three times the size of China’s GDP ($12 Trillion). That’s because GDP is based on value creation, not on transaction volumes.

Let me explain it with a crude example. A couple of weeks back, two of my friends and I went into a sports shop in Chislehurst, and bought a cricket bat for £240 for the summer. We knew we were going to share the costs at £80 each. I paid the shopkeeper £240, and then my friends paid me £80 each.

While the value created/exchanged in this case was for £240, payments happened for £240+£80+£80 = £400. GDP is calculated based on the £240, and payment volumes would account for £400.

In the initial days of my discussions about China Fintech, I would often praise China’s Fintech businesses as perhaps the largest in the world. China is doing Trillions in mobile payments, and the US is still groping its way towards $200 Billion. Purely from a size perspective China is light years ahead, but the business models there are different.

Fintech is used as a business model by lifestyle firms in China and broadly Asia. Fintech is not their core value proposition, at least it is not until they onboard a few million customers. Their core lifestyle business is then augmented by Fintech services for their customers, and that makes their life style business stickier.

I have touched upon this in detail in one of my previous posts on how lifestyle businesses have evolved into Fintech heavy hitters in Asia. And payments is the lowest common factor between ecommerce/lifestyle businesses and financial services. Therefor, firms like Alibaba, Tencent, Grab and Bykea have integrated payments to their core service offering.

However, the Chinese tech giants have identified that it was time to upgrade from payments into banking. Earlier this month Alibaba, Tencent, ZhongAn and Xioami were granted a virtual banking license in Hong Kong.

Alibaba applied for a banking license for its Ant SME services, which is a subsidiary of Ant Financial. Tencent and Xiaomi did a Joint venture to go for the banking license. Xiaomi is the fourth largest mobile phone manufacturer in the world with over 120 Million smart phones in 2018.

When Amazon began offering lending to its SME base, there were headlines that they would soon go for their banking license. However, the trend these days is that the East would lead and the West and the rest would follow. Now that China tech giants have upped the ante with a banking license, would the US peers respond? Watch this space.

Arunkumar Krishnakumar is a Venture Capital investor at Green Shores Capital focusing on Inclusion and a podcast host.

I have no positions or commercial relationships with the companies or people mentioned. I am not receiving compensation for this post.

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