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Since January this year, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority has issued 8 new virtual banking licenses, with the latest batch released last week.

As such, the concept of “virtual banks” is gradually gaining popularity in Hong Kong. However, amongst SMEs, it’s still not fully understood what it could mean to banking for businesses. According to a recent “Standard Chartered Hong Kong SME Leading Business Index” survey that covered 811 local SMEs in Q3-2018, the study shows that only 46% of surveyed SMEs have heard about “Virtual Bank”, and more importantly 23% are reluctant to adopt virtual banking services. Even for those interested in using the service, “Cybersecurity” (77%) and “System stability” (61%) are the key factors in service selection.

Because of these numbers and the changes in virtual banking landscape, let’s look at exactly

1) what is a virtual bank?

2) who are these 8 new licensed players?

3 what does this mean for SMEs like you, instead of just traditional individual customers

What is a Virtual Bank?

A virtual bank is a financial institution that can operate savings and loans businesses purely via the internet, without physical branches.
The Hong Kong virtual banks will be purely digital banks. Our requirement is that they need to offer all bank transactions through digital methods,” said Arthur Yuen, the HKMA’s deputy chief executive.
The goal is to increase competition with local banks and catch up with other jurisdictions in disrupting traditional banking like China, Singapore, UK and Australia.
This means many non-banking companies can also operate a virtual bank, as the virtual banks do not need to open branches and can use technology to operate. In addition they will be better placed to offer service to smaller customers (like SMEs) that traditional banks overlook.

They do however still have similar financial  resources as traditional banks. In fact, on average, each of the new virtual bank has HK$1.9 billion (US$242.07 million) in capital, higher than the minimum requirement of HK$300 million.

Who are the new banks and does it matter for SMEs?

As mentioned before, there are now 8 licensed virtual banks, and none of them have launched any services yet, so nothing is definitive. But we will briefly discuss who they are, what’s special about them and how it will affect you as an SME?

1. Insight Fintech

Who: Insight Fintech is a JV between Xiaomi and AMTD Group, where Xiaomi own 90% of the joint company.
What’s special: Xiaomi is commonly known as a smartphone brand, but it also has made stakes into fintech. Their goal is to create unique virtual banking services, capitalising on Xiaomi’s relatively strong positioning into all kinds of digitally-connected consumer electronics.
SME focus: Given that Xiaomi is a dominant player in consumer electronics and internet-of-things accessories, it’s likely that their financial products will find synergies with their main business; things like digital wallets and micro personal loans. So unlikely to have particular SME angle.

2. Infinium

Who: Infinium is a joint venture between Tencent, ICBC, Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing, Hillhouse Capital, and Adrian Cheng.
What’s special: Tencent has been operating WeChat Pay in Hong Kong. ICBC has a large retail banking operations and HKEX will have experience with financial trading markets. This consortium will be a very full-suite digital bank with no particular specialization.
SME focus: This consortium has a wide scope of experience in its partners, so it’s likely this bank will serve all types of customers including SMEs. We’d consider this similar to an HSBC of the virtual banks. Infinium will also not require any minimum account balance, or low-balance fees for both the public and SMEs.

3. Livi

Who: Livi a joint venture between Bank of China, JD, and Jardines.
What’s special: Similar to Infinium, Livi has a traditional bank (BOC) to bring the banking operations knowledge, a tech partner to digitize them (JD). But what’s interesting is Jardines; one of Asia’s largest conglomerates, with a varied portfolio containing 7-11, Hongkong Land, Mannings, and many others. Because of this, I believe that Livi virtual bank would focus on lifestyle offerings like clothing, food, accommodations, and other forms of shopping and leisure.
SME focus: As mentioned above, it’s more likely this bank will focus on retail consumers for their specialization on lifestyle. It’s possible that retail, F&B SMEs may also be part of their ecosystem.

4. SC Digital

Who: Standard Chartered with Hong Kong Telecom and Ctrip, a Chinese travel services provider.
What’s special: SC Digital will be standalone and a separate entity from SC (or so it is rumoured). Together with HKT and Ctrip the bank will also integrate telecom-related offerings such as HKT payments services as well as travel rewards. This ecosystem approach is similar to Livi.
SME focus: Unlikely, as they will go after the unbanked and retail customers with lifestyle offerings.

5. PingAn One Connect

Who: Ping An One Connect is a unit of Mainland China’s insurance giant PingAn Group.
What’s special:  OneConnect in particular is a fintech SaaS provider of solutions geared towards SME financial institutions. The solutions are based on technologies like artificial intelligence, blockchain, cloud platforms and biometrics identification—which will likely be incorporated into the upcoming virtual banking offering. These solutions already exist in places like Singapore and Indonesia, so we have a good idea of what they’re trying to replicate here.
SME focus: Very much so. If there’s any indication from their other operations, One Connect will be tailored to SMEs and help them adopt new technologies in account sign-up and access to banking services.

6. WeLab

Who: The one virtual bank that is truly a Hong Kong company. Welab runs WeLend in Hong Kong, Wolaidai in China and Maucash in Indonesia.
What’s special: Personal loans has been their core business for the past 6 years, so it’s unlikely they’ll change.
SME focus: Based on WeLab’s focus on consumers for their lending product, we don’t anticipate a SME focus initially.

7. Zhong An Virtual Finance

Who: The virtual banking subsidiary of Zhong An Insurance.
What’s special: Zhong An operates an online only insurance platform in the mainland, it’s possible that they’ll bring that here. Their products are likely to focus more on insurtech. More importantly, the group here ZA virtual bank seems to operate quite independently from the larger group, and may be better suited for local Hong Kong.
SME focus: possibly, with a leaning towards insurance products.

8. Ant SME

Who: Part of the Alibaba group’s financial arm; Ant Financial.
What’s special: As the name suggests there will be tailored SME products from this bank. Ant Financial in the mainland does all kinds of lending and credit products. Also the connection to AliPay HK will be interesting. Could be offering full suite of merchant solutions for consumer facing SMEs.
SME focus: Based on the name alone; very much yes. Credit solutions specific for SMEs is expected, as well as payment solutions if AliPay gets involved.


從今年1月開始,香港金融管理局經已發出8個虛擬銀行的新牌照,最新一批的名單亦於上週發布了。

因此,「虛擬銀行」的概念在香港可以說是日趨普及。然而,眾多的中小企仍然未完全理解得到,當他們要處理跟銀行相關的事務時,虛擬銀行究竟扮演著什麼角色。根據最近一份「渣打香港中小企領先商業指數」的調查顯示,於2018年第三季度它們訪問了811家本地的中小企,當中只有46%受訪的中小企有聽過「虛擬銀行」,更重要的是23%的中小企表示不願意使用虛擬銀行的服務。即使是有興趣使用虛擬銀行服務的受訪者,在選擇服務時亦會考慮到「網絡安全」(77%)和「系統穩定性」(61%)等關鍵因素。

基於這些數字和虛擬銀行業務的演變,就等我們一同看看究竟:

1) 是虛擬銀行?

2) 取得新牌照的8間虛擬銀行名單

3) 不單單是對傳統的個人客戶,對於一般的中小企來說,虛擬銀行的出現又意味著什麼呢

虛擬銀行是什麼?

虛擬銀行是一家金融機構,只需要透過互聯網就可以處理儲蓄和貸款等銀行業務,並沒有實體的零售分行。

「香港的虛擬銀行純粹是電子銀行。我們的要求是虛擬銀行需要透過電子渠道的方式去進行所有銀行交易。」金管局副首席執行官Arthur Yuen表示。

引入虛擬銀行的目標是希望可以加強與本地銀行之間的競爭,務求可趕上其他地區,如中國、新加坡、英國和澳洲等地,以顛覆傳統的銀行業務。

這意味著許多本身並非從事銀行業的公司亦可以加入去營運虛擬銀行,因為虛擬銀行不需要開設分行,而且可以依靠科技來營運操作。與此同時,他們能吸納和照顧到以往傳統銀行忽略了的小客戶(如中小企),為他們提供服務。

然而,這些虛擬銀行依然擁有與傳統銀行相約的財務資源。實際上,每間獲發牌的新虛擬銀行平均擁有19億港元(即約2億4千2百萬美元)的資本金額,遠高於最低要求的3億港元。

那些是新銀行?對中小企有影響嗎?

較早前提及,現時有8家獲發牌的虛擬銀行,但它們都未開始提供任何服務,因此暫時沒有明確的分野。但我們將會簡單討論一下他們的背景、有何特別之處,以及他們對中小企的影響?

1. Insight Fintech 洞見金融科技有限公司

背景: 洞見金融是小米和AMTD集團之間的合資企業,小米擁有公司90%的股份。

特別之處: 小米,眾所周知是一個智能手機品牌,但其實它同時涉足金融科技行業。他們的目標是開創獨特的虛擬銀行服務,希望可以充分利用小米在電子產品的領導地位去連繫各種各樣的電子消費活動。

對中小企的影響:鑑於小米在消費電子產品和互聯網相關配件的領域獨當一面,他們理所當然地會將自家的金融產品與其主要業務融合,以發揮協同效應,例如發展電子錢包和個人微型貸款等服務。所以,跟中小企的關連未必很大。

2. Infinium 貽豐香港控股有限公司

背景: 貽豐是騰訊、工商銀行、香港交易所和清算所、Hillhouse Capital和Adrian Cheng先生的合資企業。

特別之處: 騰訊在香港已經經營了微信支付一段時間。工商銀行則擁有龐大的零售銀行業務,而香港交易所對金融交易市場的運作可說是瞭如指掌。這個組合將發展成非常全面的電子銀行,相信未必會專注於某一個特定範疇。

對中小企的影響:這個組合中的每一個合作夥伴都各自擁有廣泛的營商經驗,因此這一家虛擬銀行很有機會會包攬各個層面的客人,包括中小企。我們可以視他為匯豐銀行的虛擬銀行版本。貽豐不會設立最低存款要求,或向大眾和中小企收取小額存款的手續費。

3. Livi

背景: Livi是由中國銀行、京東數科和怡和集團合資所辦的企業。

特別之處:與貽豐相似,Livi的伙伴中包括了一家傳統銀行(中國銀行)以提供銀行業務的知識,一家技術支援公司帶領他們發展電子事務(京東數科)。但有趣的是怡和集團; 它是亞洲數一數二的大企業,擁有多樣化的業務,包括7-11便利店、香港置地、萬寧等等。正因如此,我認為Livi開設的虛擬銀行將專注於與生活息息相關的消費類別之上,例如服裝、食品、住宿以及其他類型的購物和休閒活動。

對中小企的影響:如上所述,這家虛擬銀行應該會專注於零售消費者的日常生活範疇。零售和餐飲業的中小企也可能會成為他們的服務對象。

4. SC Digital

背景: 由渣打銀行與香港電信和中國旅遊服務供應商——攜程共同合辦。

特別之處:SC Digital將會是一個獨立機構,並且是由渣打銀行分拆出來的企業個體(傳聞如此)。聯同香港電訊和攜程網,這家虛擬銀行將整合電訊相關產品,如香港電訊支付服務以及旅遊獎賞。這一種運作模式與Livi類近。

對中小企的影響:不太可能與中小企有太大關連。因為他們會著眼去吸納那些本身未有銀行戶口的客戶,以及與生活層面有關的零售客戶。

5. PingAn One Connect  平安一賬通

背景: 平安一賬通是中國大陸保險業巨頭平安集團的子公司

特別之處:一賬通特別在於它是一家專門服務中小企的金融機構,是提供金融科技SaaS解決方案的供應商。這些解決方案是建基於人工智能、虛擬貨幣的區塊鏈、雲端技術和生物識別技術等科技,而這些科技很有可能會被納入虛擬銀行即將推出的產品中。這一類的解決方案已經於新加坡和印尼等地出現,因此我們很清楚知道他們想在香港發展的服務內容。

對中小企的影響:非常重大。從他們的其他業務來看可算是有跡可尋,一賬通將針對中小企度身訂造適合他們的開戶和銀行服務方案,以協助中小企採用最新的科技。

6. WeLab

背景: 唯一一家真正由香港公司開設的虛擬銀行。Welab在香港經營WeLend,在中國營運Wolaidai,並在印尼營運Maucash。

特別之處:過去6年,私人貸款一直是他們的核心業務,所以他們會改變業務範疇的機會不大。

對中小企的影響:由於WeLab專注發展跟消費者貸款相關的產品,我們預計他們在業務起步階段並不會將焦點放於中小企上。

7. Zhong An Virtual Finance  眾安虛擬金融有限公司合資公司

背景: 這家虛擬銀行是眾安保險旗下的子公司。

特別之處:眾安於大陸經營網上保險業務,他們很大可能會將這方面的業務引入香港的虛擬銀行。他們的產品大多會把焦點放於保險科技的範疇。更重要的是,眾安虛擬銀行似乎是獨立營運,跟集團未有直接連繫,可能更適合服務香港大眾。

對中小企的影響:很有可能他們的業務會較側重於保險產品。

8. Ant SME  螞蟻金服

背景: 阿里巴巴集團財務部門的一部分; 螞蟻金服。

特別之處:顧名思義,這家銀行將會為中小企提供度身訂造的產品。螞蟻金服在內地提供各種各樣的借貸和信貸產品。同時,他們與AliPay HK的聯繫也很有趣。 可能會為一眾服務廣大消費者的中小企提供全面的商戶方案。

對中小企的影響:從機構的名稱看來,跟中小企的關聯緊密。預計會特別為中小企提供信貸服務,而且支付寶亦參與其中,相信他們亦會推出跟支付有關的產品或服務。


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