China’s PSBC Planning Online Banking Push

The bank says it will deepen its cooperation with Ant Financial and Shenzhen Tencent in internet and mobile finance.
Christopher HosfordJuly 6, 2016

Postal Savings Bank of China, with a network of some 40,000 branches across China, is preparing to launch a range of internet-based consumer finance services, including mobile banking.

China’s sixth-largest bank by assets announced the plan in its prospectus for an initial public offering, saying it wanted to deepen cooperation with online services firm Tencent and Ant, an online payments affiliate of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding.

The planned services would transform PSBC from “a brick-and-mortar lender into a digital player,” according to Reuters.

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Both Ant and Tencent, a part owner of the online bank WeBank, participated in PSBC’s private equity round of financing last year that raised $7 billion. In the prospectus, PSBC said it was cooperating with those “strategic investors” to “establish online consumer finance services.”

“In recent years, internet-based financial service platforms are developing rapidly in China,” the prospectus said, noting that  services include personal loans, third-party payment, and wealth management.

“These internet-based financial companies bring in innovative service models, lower the threshold and cost of providing financial services to the public, and improve the customer experience,” PSBC said. “Accordingly, China’s banking financial institutions s are facing challenges with respect to products, technologies and customer experience.”

PSBC said, among other things, it will “actively explore” establishing a mobile payment system and speed up the development of mobile phone-based services.

“We will deepen our cooperation with Ant Financial and Shenzhen Tencent in internet finance and mobile finance to improve the customer experience and strengthen our service capability,” the prospectus said.

According to Reuters, PSBC sees opportunities in particular among rural and low-income customers who don’t currently have access to online banking services.

“In general, the banks in China have been a little bit behind the ball in terms of getting on top of things and creating innovative product services,” Zennon Kapron, founder of Shanghai-based financial industry research firm Kapronasia, told Reuters.

PSBC’s public offering on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange could raise up to $10 billion and may come as early as September.