China’s central bank has urged financial technology (fintech) companies to help pay for a government-controlled monitoring system to watch over financial transactions on the internet.
Sun Guofeng, director general of the People’s Bank of China’s research institute, said the fast-growing fintech businesses have ratcheted up pressure on authorities to invest heavily in regulatory technology, or regtech, but he pointed out that it would be unfair to cover the costs by using taxpayers’ money.
“The question is whether it is fair to simply use taxpayers’ money to cover the costs arising from heightened regulation on fintech businesses,” he said on Saturday at the LendIt conference in Shanghai. “Wouldn’t it be necessary for the fintech firms to share part of the costs arising from regtech?”
His remarks came after Beijing said it was determined to strengthen regulation on the fast-expanding fintech businesses to ward off financial risks.
At the weekend, President Xi Jinping announced plans to create a centralised super regulator focused on financial stability as a patch for the country’s fragmented regulatory structure.
Since taking office in late 2012, Xi has been an advocate for financial reform to help millions of underbanked residents receive access to much-needed capital, allowing internet companies to offer online financial services ranging from online payment to peer-to-peer lending.
However, the system has met with mixed success owing to the absence of an efficient regulator.
From the beginning of this year, authorities began examining the credentials of lending operators following a raft of scandals involving at least 100 billion yuan (US$14.7 billion) worth of deposits from millions of residents in the past few years.
“In the past, costs for regulatory work normally derived from hiring of professionals,” Sun said. “Now huge capital is needed to build infrastructure.”
Regtech helps spot potential risks, halt questionable transactions and provide investigative assistance to prosecute illegal dealings.
Sun did not elaborate on the amount needed by regulators to build the monitoring system.
He added that authorities are monitoring developments with regtech with a view to embracing to developing the industry.
Venture capitalists have invested US$2.3 billion in regtech since 2012, data from CB Insights showed.
Gabriel Hai, chief executive of LendIt China said there were many unfolding opportunities in China for the application of fintech.
“More than 700 million Chinese people are still underbanked,” Hai said. “A better use of digital technologies such as big data will be of great help to reform the country’s financial landscape.”