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Banking newbies set to shake up Asia’s finances

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Banking newbies set to shake up Asia’s finances

Banking newbies set to shake up Asia’s finances

In Asia, it’s the region’s biggest tech giants that are challenging high street banks, to a degree not seen in Europe or the United States.

Michelle Hennessy reports.

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Banking newbies set to shake up Asia’s finances

In Hong Kong, the banking battle lines between old and new are being drawn out.

It's just the latest Asian financial hub to roll out licenses to so-called virtual banks.

But they aren't just going to finance companies.

In Asia, it's big established tech firms that are threatening to crack open the industry.

Chinese tech titans Alibaba and Tencent led the charge.

Now even Japanese and South Korean messaging apps are also looking for ways to stash your cash.

Alun John covers financial regulation in Asia: (SOUNDBITE) (English) REUTERS ASIA REGULATION CORRESPONDENT, ALUN JOHN, SAYING: "Elsewhere the big tech giants are certainly spending a lot of time on the financial services but more on providing services to existing banks.

Whereas here the tech players are having banks branded under their own names, taking large equity stakes, and making a big thing about the fact they're a tech company and they're doing banking." One of the licence winners in Hong Kong says tech companies might even have an edge: (SOUNDBITE) (English) ZHONGAN INTERNATIONAL PRESIDENT, WAYNE XU, SAYING: "To operate online is not easy so ZhongAn is the first online insurer in China so we have the hands-on experience to handle all these kind of security design so that a user don't need to worry about security or privacy." It would be a big leapfrog for the industry - one that could leave the old giants in Asia behind.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) REUTERS ASIA REGULATION CORRESPONDENT, ALUN JOHN, SAYING: "From the big incumbent banks perspective it's difficult because they've got a large amount of legacy technology systems it's very hard for them to respond quickly to customers changing needs because they've been trying to do this for the last twenty, thirty years.

They're certainly concerned, they're not saying we're all doomed we give up we'll go home now.

But Asia for some global banks is where they make a huge amount of their money particuarly Hong Kong.

HSBC is phenomenally profitable here, so is Standard Chartered, to a lesser extent Bank of China Hong Kong.

And so anything that hurts their profitability in Hong Kong is worrying from a group perspective." It's too early to tell if these companies will be 'disrupters' on the scale of Amazon to retail, or Uber to transport.

But the number of physical bank branches here are already in steady decline just as virtual banks have arrived.




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