The Chinese fintech ecosystem is the largest and most diversified in the emerging markets world. In this series of reports, we map the progress of China’s fintechs and examine their strategies and plans. As one of the more mature markets, the country’s fintechs can also provide a blueprint for where other EMs may follow.
Our database of over 650 Chinese fintechs within 3,400 emerging market firms helps us position China in a broader EM context. In contrast to most other emerging markets, where fintechs regard other fintechs as their main competition, Chinese fintechs are competing head-on with banks and telco firms. Over the next three years, Chinese fintechs are targeting product/service innovation, gross margin, and transaction value as key performance indicators. The top values they offer include user-friendly platforms, strong branding and affiliations, and seamless execution.
Our Ultimate Guide to China fintech gives a more comprehensive overview of the sector and can be accessed here.
The competitive landscape for Chinese fintechs
Chinese fintechs regard telecommunications companies and traditional financial services firms as their strongest competitors, followed by other fintechs. Meanwhile, informal channels are not much of a concern to them.
In contrast, elsewhere in EM, it is other fintechs that are considered the biggest competitive threat. In our previous China survey, other fintechs were regarded as the biggest competitors and telecommunication firms were not even in the race. This shift suggests China fintechs are now much more focused on the mainstream than before.
Targeted KPIs: Product/service innovation, gross margin, transaction value
According to Chinese fintechs, they are targeting product/service innovation, gross margins and transaction values as key performance indicators. The focus on these top three KPIs is in line with what we see in other emerging markets. However, Chinese fintechs are more concerned about brand strength than their EM peers.
In our previous survey, customer satisfaction and relations with regulators were the most targeted KPIs. The focus on enhancing customer loyalty, plus top- and bottom-line growth, has lessened since this time. Meanwhile, the spotlight on product and service innovation has intensified.
Product and service innovation
Product and service innovation enables fintechs to reach their customers more cheaply and effectively. It also helps fintechs to be more relevant to their customers, for example by offering them greater convenience and/or a better user experience. Chinese fintechs citing product/service innovation as a KPI include Changsheng (fintech software solutions) and Neo (blockchain).
Once a certain level of scale is achieved, fintechs can then typically focus more on generating financial returns for their investors. A higher gross margin allows companies to lift investment in branding, marketing and product development. Chinese fintechs targeting to expand gross margin include Pintech (lending) and Qingsongchou (blockchain).
This is one of the most frequently targeted KPIs cited by Chinese fintechs and is also one of the main metrics used by investors to assess operators, particularly in the payments segment. Firms actively targeting transaction value growth include China UMS (payments) and BitOcean (blockchain).
Chinese fintechs’ customer-value proposition: user-friendliness, branding, seamless execution
The critical values delivered by Chinese fintechs are user-friendly platforms, strong branding/affiliations and seamless execution. Relative to fintechs in other emerging markets, those in China are more focused on delivering personalised services, while less importance is assigned to fast approvals and unique offerings.
In our previous survey, product quality, customer responsiveness and security were the top values provided by fintechs. In comparison with that survey, Chinese fintechs now give less importance to convenience, security and customer responsiveness and are more focused on branding, fast approvals and transparent pricing.
Customers increasingly demand an easy-to-use, seamless interface. Chinese fintechs citing this as a key customer-value proposition include Yeahka (payments) and Xtransfer (lending).
Company brand and affiliation
A strong company brand helps to build customer trust and loyalty, increasing the opportunities for cross-selling and up-selling. Chinese fintechs citing company branding as a key value include ChinaPNR (payments) and Block.one (blockchain).
Users increasingly demand that fintech platforms should operate without any delays or interruptions. Chinese fintechs that cite seamless execution as their key value include iBoxPay (payments) and VituTech (blockchain).
The author thanks Rohit Kumar, Rabail Adwani and Gaurav Kumar for their assistance with this report.