Supervising ants: a detailed explanation of sixteen years’ game history

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abstract
The ant group, which takes innovation as the spear, has stirred up the nerve of financial supervision in every important step of its 16 years of development. Today, regulators hold up the shield of risk control and suspend its listing at the last moment. During this period, there is a rare collective voice. This is a ringing bell of the game between innovation and regulation in recent years, and has a profound impact on China’s financial technology innovation and regulatory system
Zhang Wei, Zhang Yingxin, Zhang Xinpei, Tangjun
Editor yuan man
One ant is so small that it can be ignored. Thousands of ants can produce amazing power.
Ant group previously wrote in its prospectus that it named the company “ant” because it always believed that small is beautiful and small is powerful.
16 years ago, Alipay, which started in Taobao electric business, once proposed a dream: the future world, financial services will not be exclusive to a few people, but a service that every consumer can get whenever and wherever possible.
In October 2014, Alipay’s parent company was named after ants.
From the first guarantee transaction, to express payment, 310 loan, yu’ebao, money collection code Every important development of this financial “ant” walks in the boundary of innovation, arouses the nerve of traditional financial supervision, and even affects the process of China’s financial innovation, supervision and development.
Up to now, ant’s financial technology business serves 1 billion domestic consumers and 80 million small and micro businesses, and has been highly recognized by the capital market.
One month ago (October 2020), ant group, which planned to be listed on the science and technology innovation board, won the favor of 29 top strategic investors including social security fund, with a total market value of 2.1 trillion yuan, which is expected to become the largest IPO in the world in history.
But the dramatic reversal took place on the eve of listing bell ringing, and constantly breaking through people’s expectations. The senior executives of ant group were interviewed by four ministries and commissions, and the micro loan business, which accounts for nearly half of the profits, is facing new restrictions. The Shanghai Stock Exchange has announced that it will suspend its listing
According to the reporter of Caijing, the duration of ant group’s suspension of listing depends on several key factors: when will the formal draft of the new regulations on small loans be determined, and when the rectification plan will be approved? But in any case, under the regulatory spotlight, ant group is experiencing an unprecedented critical moment since its inception.
Here, China’s financial regulatory authorities rarely make frequent calls for financial innovation.
Prior to that, Liu He, member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, vice premier of the State Council and director of the financial stability and Development Commission of the State Council (hereinafter referred to as “the financial commission”), held a special meeting of the financial stability and Development Committee of the State Council (hereinafter referred to as “the financial commission”) and stressed that “it is necessary to strengthen supervision and comprehensively incorporate financial activities into Supervision in accordance with the law”.
On November 2, Yi Gang, governor of the central bank, also said at the Hong Kong financial technology week that large technology companies have changed the rules of the game, but the protection of trade secrets and consumer privacy is a great challenge.
On the same day, the official wechat of China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission issued the Interim Measures for the management of online small loan business (Draft for comments) for public opinions (hereinafter referred to as the Interim Measures for online small loan). The small loan business with tight document supervision is one of ant group’s main businesses.
On November 6, at the regular policy briefing of the State Council, Liu Fushou, chief lawyer of the CIRC, directly said that he would “bring all financial activities into the unified regulatory scope according to the financial attributes of financial technology”.
The wind started at the end of Qingping, and the relevant regulatory statements and actions did not suddenly emerge overnight. Before that, the financial regulatory warning faced by ants has appeared.
In September this year, the people’s Bank of China issued the Trial Measures for the supervision and management of financial holding companies (hereinafter referred to as the “financial control measures”), which pointed out that the financial holding companies that meet the following conditions should be included in the supervision: first, the controlling shareholders and actual controllers are domestic non-financial enterprises, natural persons and recognized legal persons; second, the substantial control of two or more types of financial institutions; and third, the financial holding companies are subject to supervision The total assets or entrusted assets of financial institutions under substantial control reach a certain scale, or financial holding companies need to be established according to the requirements of macro prudential supervision. Ant group holds high gold content licenses such as payment, banking, insurance, fund, small loan, etc., and is bound to face strong financial control supervision.
In response to strong supervision, ant group formally appointed Li Chen, vice president of ant group, as the group’s compliance director during the “double 11” period, reporting directly to CEO Hu Xiaoming. Industry insiders pointed out that the establishment of such a post, ant group is to show the world’s determination to do a good job in compliance.
“Next, ant group will reorganize its business according to the official documents issued by the new regulations on small loans, so it will face a series of adjustments from personnel to business.” An industry personage told “finance and economics” reporter.
Some people in the industry pointed out that in order to meet the regulatory requirements and meet the listing conditions, the possibility of splitting ant group’s restructuring business into listed companies also exists. It is not ruled out that the financial services such as payment, small loan and fund sales can be separated.
On November 17, at the third innovation economy forum, Fang Xinghai, vice chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, said when talking about when ant group’s IPO would be restarted, whether there is a timetable for the listing of ant group depends on how the government reorganizes the regulatory framework of financial technology enterprises, and how the companies respond to the regulatory environment.
Although the industry has a lot of speculation about ant group’s sudden failure in IPO due to the new regulatory policy on the eve of IPO, many authoritative figures told Caijing that the unprecedented collective voice of China’s financial regulators is a ringing bell for the game between innovation and supervision in recent years, and has a far-reaching impact on financial technology innovation and regulatory system.
The largest scale of emergency brake
At about 9:00 on November 2, the official wechat of China Securities Regulatory Commission announced: “today, the people’s Bank of China, the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, the China Securities Regulatory Commission and the State Administration of foreign exchange have held regulatory interviews with Ma Yun, the chairman of the board of directors, and Hu Xiaoming, the president of ant group.”
At that time, it was less than three days before the listing bell of ant group. Although the employees of ant group feel that it is not right, few people put aside their busy time on the eve of listing to examine what is happening.

At an interval of 25 minutes, the official wechat of the CIRC released a message: “the CIRC and the people’s Bank of China solicit public opinions on the Interim Measures for the management of online small loan business (Draft) (hereinafter referred to as the” Interim Measures for small online loans “) The online loan business with tight document supervision is one of the main businesses of ant group.
Later, Guo Wuping, director of the Consumer Protection Bureau of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, issued an article in the media, pointing out that “Huabei” and “Jiebai” infringed on the rights and interests of consumers.
That night, an article from the financial times, the official media of the central bank, was also circulated on the Internet. The article pointed out that in order to carry out financial business for large Internet enterprises, we should speed up the construction and improvement of the regulatory framework for large Internet enterprises, strictly enforce market access, strengthen the protection of consumers’ rights and interests, and prevent data monopoly.
The “night of supervision” came. In a few hours, the article “four ministries and commissions interviewing senior ants” read 100000 + in the official micro blog of the CSRC alone, and more than 10000 people praised it.
Ant group in the regulatory spotlight made an official response that night. It told Caijing that the actual controller of ant group and the relevant management have accepted the supervision interview of major regulatory departments. Ant group will thoroughly implement the interview opinions, continue to follow the 16 character guideline of “sound innovation, embracing supervision, service entities, opening and win-win”, continue to improve the ability of inclusive service, and help the economic and people’s livelihood development.
Just a week ago (on the evening of October 26), the initial IPO inquiry of ant group was completed. Ma Yun announced at the Bund financial summit that this would be the “miracle” of “the largest listing in the history of mankind”.
Ant group’s final issuing price of a shares is 68.8 yuan per share. Influenced by the regulatory policy on the evening of the 2nd, ant group’s business model changed. Its 2.1 trillion yuan market value ushered in a market dispute on the eve of listing. An executive of a fund company told Caijing on the same day that ant group was facing the problem of business model reconstruction.
On that night, the focus of the market was on the impact of the new deal on the stock price of ant after it was listed? The pre IPO busyness continues.
On the evening of November 3, a notice issued by the Shanghai Stock Exchange (hereinafter referred to as the “Shanghai Stock Exchange”) pressed the pause button for all this. Shanghai Stock Exchange informed ant group to suspend its A-share listing plan in Shanghai Stock Exchange. Affected by this, ant group’s plan to simultaneously list H shares on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange will also be postponed.
The reason given by the Shanghai Stock Exchange is that “recently, the actual controller, chairman and general manager of your company have been jointly supervised and interviewed by relevant departments, and your company has also reported major events such as changes in the regulatory environment of financial technology. This material event may cause your company to fail to meet the requirements of issuance and listing or information disclosure. ”
There is a general consensus in the industry that the regulatory environment for financial technology has changed, that is, the Interim Measures for online small loans issued by the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission on the first day. The new regulations will greatly increase the compliance cost of ant group’s micro loan business, and then affect the business profit prospects and the rationality of IPO valuation.
From the late July when ant group announced to launch its listing plan, and in late October, the Securities Regulatory Commission approved the initial public offering (IPO) registration of ant group’s science and technology innovation board. It took only three months for ant group to get the approval documents from its initial listing.
After three months of busy work, many employees of ant group realized the seriousness of the problem. According to the reporter, the company held an urgent meeting to stabilize the company.
Later, ant group in the official wechat “to investors” said: “for the trouble caused to investors, ant group is very sorry. We will properly handle the follow-up work in accordance with the relevant rules of the two exchanges. ”
In fact, the advent of regulatory night is not without trace.
On October 24, Ma Yun, the actual controller of ant group, directly criticized financial regulation at the Shanghai Bund financial summit, saying that Basel Accord is like a “club for the elderly”, which aims to solve the aging and complex problems of the financial system which has operated for decades; China is not a financial systemic problem, but the risk of lack of a healthy financial system; and he reminds regulators that “no” The airport can be managed in the same way as the railway station, not in the future as it was yesterday.
On October 24, Ma Yun, the controller of ant group, criticized financial regulation at the Shanghai Bund financial summit, calling the Basel Accord like a “club for the aged”; and reminded regulators that “we can’t manage the airport by the way of managing railway stations, we can’t manage the future by the way of yesterday”. Figure / IC
Ma Yun’s comments were hot and caused controversy for several days.
“You know you’re arbitraging, they know you’re arbitraging, you know they know you’re arbitraging, they know you know they know you’re arbitraging, but you’re not only arbitraging, you scold them.” A melon eating crowd joked in the circle of friends.
A week later, on October 31, Liu He, vice premier of the State Council, presided over a meeting of the financial committee, proposing to respect international consensus and rules, strengthen supervision, and fully incorporate financial activities into supervision according to law. Subsequently, the ant group was publicly placed in the regulatory spotlight.
In mid November, a few days after IPO reversals, the working state and rhythm of ant Z space at No. 556 Xixi Road, Xihu District, Hangzhou were as normal as before, and the business was normal. In the evening, people working overtime were still busy in the bright lights.
Passers-by still can’t help but look up at this building that has and is yearning for by countless people, although the atmosphere inside the building has changed from excitement half a month ago to a little silent.
“No one in the company raised the issue of listing again. The temporary failure of listing is not only a damage to the interests of employees, but also a psychological blow. We all know in our hearts that mentioning can not solve the problem, it will only make people feel frustrated. ” Close to the ant group of people to the “finance and economics” reporter frankly, can not underestimate the impact of this incident on the morale of the ant group.
It is understood that ant group has carried out relevant information, emotional comfort and encouragement to the staff to ensure the team’s serious work. Previously, the busy publicity work has been stopped.

In response to strong supervision, ant group formally appointed Li Chen, vice president of ant group, as the group’s compliance director during the “double 11” period, reporting directly to CEO Hu Xiaoming. Industry insiders pointed out that the establishment of such a post is to show the world’s determination to do a good job in compliance.
According to the reporter of Caijing, Li Chen’s actual work has not changed due to the new appointment, because he was originally responsible for the compliance work. However, the establishment of the chief compliance officer means that all business departments within ant group will be more awed by compliance. The above-mentioned people pointed out that the future must be compliance first.
Ant’s spear of innovation
A number of insiders told Caijing that the suspension of ant listing reflects that the regulatory authorities and the financial industry have reached a critical state of tolerance for potential risks brought by financial technology innovation and Internet giants.
Looking back on the rapid development history of the past 16 years, ant’s financial technology innovation began with Taobao.
“In fact, cloud knows
Can’t escape Taobao’s prison
Every second of heartache
Every time I cry, I wake up for a second
Only the heart is begging
I’ll know
I’m really tired
No strength
There are too many memories
hold one ‘s breath
Love your heart, I have no place to deliver
If you can find you by climbing on the eaves
The grievances of love need not be clarified… ”
In mid September, Ma Yun and Wang Fei’s Chorus “only the cloud knows” swept the financial technology and entertainment industry. In Gao Xiaosong’s words, Ma Yun, who did not know the music score, blew out the same high octave as Wang Fei at the end of the song.
In the view of more industry insiders, the volume of its wind also reflects the deep feelings between Ma Yun and Taobao. In May 2003, Alibaba founded Taobao. Com. As a large online retail and business district in the Asia Pacific region, Taobao has made it possible for thousands of Chinese households to shop at home.
This also sows a seed for ant group’s innovation in the field of financial technology. In the same year (2003) autumn, Alipay was quietly born on the industrial chain of Taobao’s e-commerce platform business. It is worth noting that the first year of Alipay came out, the China UnionPay came out and helped banks gradually realize the transfer of bank cards.
Alipay, which did not connect with the Bank of China, though it was only a niche business at the time, has formed potential pressure on the traditional four party clearing mode and traditional payment institutions represented by banks, and laid a foreshadow for the subsequent regulatory new rules.
For the relationship between Taobao and Alipay, the ant group introduced in its prospectus, “recall that we first set up Alipay, in order to solve the trust problem of transactions, so that strangers can do business even after thousands of miles away.”
In the solution of the innovative ideas and technical support of transaction trust, Alipay has been developing all the way. In 2009, Alipay launched Alipay mobile terminal APP five years after its launch. In the following year, it launched fast payment, and launched a two-dimensional code payment product in 2011. At present, the market share of the third party mobile payment is over 50%.
Ge Huayong, the former chairman of China UnionPay, once said that China’s payment instruments have developed from cash to bank card and then to card free payment in the past 30 years. Every change is an innovation. A senior scholar called the change of payment method since the founding of new China as “great change”, which was supported and promoted by technology. “Payment change is not only due to the rapid renewal of payment form, but also from the promoters behind the payment reform. From the initial bank led evolution, it has gradually evolved into the two largest payment giants with Alipay and WeChat as the harbinger.”
In 2011, the central bank issued the first 27 third party payment licences, which Alipay covered. At the same time obtaining the license, the central bank meant that its payment business should be strictly regulated by financial supervision. Besides, the sweep code payment, which supported the share of its larger mobile payment, had experienced many stages of development, such as the initial stage, the regulatory halt, the continuous exploration and the restart.
The direct connection mode triggered by Alipay also ended with the establishment of the Internet Federation in 2017. The risk problem behind the end is that the payment institutions actually undertake the clearing work, trusteeship the funds in the bank, bypass the UnionPay, and realize direct connection with the bank, forming a unique tripartite mode, saving costs and bypassing the central bank’s supervision of payment and settlement.
Industry insiders said that Internet payment more or less has the direct connection bank mode, directly across the clearing this link. After cutting to the Internet connection, the payment institution and the bank are completely disconnected, and the clearing is done through the online connection, just as the bank does the clearing through the central bank system. Inter bank clearing has become centralized, and relevant business supervision can be controlled.
Some regulators once told Caijing that the trade-offs in the face of financial innovation are: on the one hand, for the financial innovation of Internet technology giants, regulators do not want to be labeled as “hindering innovation”, so they are once more inclusive; on the other hand, efficiency and risk are like twin brothers. At different stages, supervision needs to grasp the main contradictions in a specific period.
In the process of innovation, ant not only has a game with financial supervision, but also often confronts with traditional financial institutions, especially commercial banks.
In 2008, just in time for the financial crisis, Ma Yun said at the annual meeting of Chinese enterprise leaders held in Beijing that if the banks do not change, we will change the banks. At that time, the golden sentence once stung the nerves of many big banks, but we didn’t really pay attention to it. Later, it turned out that the banking leaders were careless.
Because at that time, compared with the huge scale of banking business, Alipay was still niche, but its convenience and safety soon won the favor of consumers. Alipay has also become a fashion for young people.
In 2013, the amazing product yu’ebao was launched. Due to its extremely high profitability and liquidity, the cumulative trading users of the product exceeded 600 million by the end of 2018, and its scale once exceeded 2 trillion yuan, surpassing the personal deposit scale of Bank of communications, China Merchants Bank and Bank of China.
The scale of the rapid expansion of innovative products such as Alipay and Yu Ebao deeply touched the “cheese” of banks. Five years later, under financial supervision, financial technology companies returned to the source of science and technology, and commercial banks began to set up financial technology companies and launched a technology revitalization.

However, with traditional commercial banks and other payment institutions competing to follow suit, the scale of yu’ebao has declined year after year. According to the data of the third quarter report of 2020 released by Tianhong Yuebao money market fund on October 28, the scale of yu’ebao at the end of the third quarter was 1.19 trillion yuan, much smaller than that in the same period in 2018 and 2017.
In the field of financial management, at the end of 2016, the default of Qiaoxing bond triggered the early warning of financial innovation risk. As an important part of participation, zhaocaibao, a financial management platform of ant financial services, sold the split private equity bond products (qiaoxingbond) to public investors, breaking the regulatory provisions on the number of non-public offerings and the lower limit of investment, leading to the privatization of private placement. The overseas Chinese debt incident directly points out that the platform should not go beyond the intermediary function to re process and design products.
In March of the next year (2017), ant financial services (formerly known as ant financial) announced that it would only do tech (Technology) in the future, support financial institutions to do well in fin (Finance), from fintech to techfin, and in the future, it would only be a sales platform to provide technical and big data support for financial institutions.
Jing Xiandong, the then CEO of ant financial services, said in an exclusive interview with Caijing that ant financial was positioned as a technology company, helping partners with altruistic ideas to promote new finance. The new embodiment of new finance is new technology and more inclusive to the public, and techfin is the continuation of the above concept.
At the same time, Jing also said frankly, “it is undeniable that in the previous tech, we wanted to access some financial product manufacturing. However, ant financial’s strong point is technology, which can complement each other by cooperating with financial enterprises. Therefore, we should step back and return to the position of tech, and fin has less things. ”
Compared with Ma Yun’s high-profile remarks in 2008, ant financial services’ attitude towards financial institutions at this time is softer and more modest.
An in-depth study of ants industry pointed out that the lifeline of ants is innovation. All work of ants is carried out around innovation, but supervision is not the same. Therefore, to a certain extent, it can be considered that ants and supervision are in different value systems, and there will always be some controversial points between the two sides.
“Ant thinks that it serves the lower level groups, which is dislocation development with banks, and the risk of business development is controllable. However, for supervision, ant is more innovative and controversial, and the responsibility of supervision is to supervise market entities.” The above-mentioned people pointed out that the ant’s duty is to obey the corresponding supervision.
Some people in the industry also pointed out that “in the development process of ants, there may be some regulatory and market disputes, but we also see the value and benefits that ants bring to the whole financial industry.” The growth of ant group’s business does not absolutely have a huge impact on the financial industry, but also forms a growth of dislocation with the bank.
The shield of regulatory risk control
With the release of the new regulations on small loans on the Internet, the controversy between ant group and financial supervision has become a consensus.
In fact, the short-term solution of “the Internet” was published in a hurry Several insiders close to the regulation told Caijing that the restrictions on leverage in the new regulations are the biggest blow to ant group, and they are also ridiculed by the industry as “hitting the snake to seven inches”.
In other words, the loan balance of small companies shall not exceed 5 times of the net assets of small companies. At the same time, in a single joint loan, the contribution proportion of small loan companies operating network small loan business shall not be less than 30%.
Previously, as joint loans were not included in the scope of leverage, the leverage ratio was not calculated in the statement through asset-backed securities (ABS). As a result, some small online loan companies leverage the excessive loan scale with lower registered capital, which is also the case with ant group.
According to the prospectus of ant group, in the first half of 2020, ant group’s micro loan technology platform contributed to a total credit balance of 2.15 trillion yuan. Among them, the consumer credit balance represented by Huabei and jiebei (the main bodies are Chongqing ant small and micro loan Co., Ltd. and Chongqing ant Shangcheng small loan Co., Ltd.) amounts to 1.73 trillion yuan. It is worth noting that in the credit balance promoted by the micro loan technology platform, the proportion of actual loans or asset securitization realized by financial institutions is about 98%.
For this reason, in the view of most people in the financial industry, it is a correct choice for the regulatory authorities to suspend the listing of ant group, because if the risks hidden in its business are not revealed at this time, the interests of investors will not be effectively protected.
“China’s economy may continue to boom for a long time, but it is impossible to avoid a time when there is a correction and setback. On the surface, once the ABS asset package is sold, the buyer assumes the risk, which has nothing to do with ants, and the risk seems very small. Before 2007, the U.S. banking industry actually thought so. But the whole financial system is connected, and the losses and holes have to be filled by someone, ants or someone else. In the end, it will spread to the whole banking industry, which is the so-called systemic crisis. ” Some senior people in the financial industry have stressed that risks will never be eliminated but transferred. Ant group can only transfer the risk, absolutely can not eliminate the risk, can hide and delay the risk at most, but if it erupts at the same time, it may lead to terrible systemic risk. And the risk transferred, the ultimate payer is likely to be the ordinary people.
As two sides of the same coin, big technology risk control represented by ant group is also regarded as an effective path of Inclusive Finance. Huang Yiping, vice president of National Development Research Institute of Peking University, said in an exclusive interview with Caijing that as a part of financial data risk control, big technology credit refers to large technology companies providing credit services for small and medium-sized enterprises or individual businesses and innovative credit risk management framework by using large technology ecosystem and data risk control model.

In the research report led by him, through the comparison of samples, it is found that the large-scale science and technology credit has a higher degree of adaptability with small-scale, short-term credit history, small and medium-sized enterprises. For this reason, Huang Yiping believes that big technology credit can find a feasible path for Inclusive Finance. In loans for small and medium-sized enterprises, large-scale technology risk control is more reliable than traditional bank risk control.
However, with regard to the effectiveness of large technology credit risk control after changes in the financial cycle and financial market environment, Huang Yiping said that this should also be a common concern and concern of regulatory authorities, and we need further research and analysis to confirm. But even if the financial cycle changes, the comparative advantage of this big data risk control model relative to the traditional model should still be maintained, because of the advantages of data and model.
A senior person in the financial technology industry stressed to the reporter of Caijing that the risk control of traditional finance mainly uses the financial data with strong credit attribute, and uses the score to identify the repayment ability and willingness of customers. In contrast, big data risk control of fintech companies does not completely change the traditional risk control, but actually enriches the data dimension of traditional risk control. However, big data risk control is not omnipotent. It solves the problem of credit risk rather than financial risk.
In addition, some people in the industry also pointed out that it is more necessary to be vigilant against the problem of joint debt and those enterprises that are engaged in large technology credit business without large technological capacity, so as to avoid the recurrence of “P2P lessons”.
Another concern of supervision is that when the risk is excessively concentrated on the actual controller of private enterprises, what kind of impact will be brought if the risk breaks out. Authorities close to the central bank have expressed similar concerns, “ant group, after all, is a private enterprise, but it serves so many users. If there is a big problem, the risk is actually concentrated on one person (Ma Yun), and the impact or risk is completely uncontrollable.”
In addition to the above problems, the ant group monopoly and invasion of personal privacy, which are frequently mentioned by market participants in recent years, are also regarded as two major concerns of supervision.
On November 2, Guo Wuping, director of the consumer rights and Interests Protection Bureau of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC), wrote an article, pointing out that when the regulatory authorities investigate and punish licensed financial institutions, they should also carry out extended investigations into relevant financial technology companies. In view of oligopoly, we should organize and carry out consumer questionnaire survey on whether there is abuse of market dominant position by relevant companies. We should strengthen the law enforcement and justice of anti-monopoly and anti unfair competition, prevent the winners from taking all and “big shops bullying customers”, and infringe on consumers’ right of independent choice and fair trade.
Li Qing, a researcher at the China Economic System Reform Research Association, and others believe that the abuse of market dominance in the anti-monopoly law includes two elements, one of which is indispensable. One is that the enterprise has a dominant position in the relevant market, which needs to be determined by many factors such as whether the enterprise can determine the transaction conditions (such as price and quantity), or it can be inferred by market share. Second, enterprises have abused this dominant position, such as unfair high price and low price, refusal to trade, designated transaction, tied sale and so on.
Li Qing and others believe that the data obtained from them show that in 2019, Alipay and WeChat paid no market share in mobile phone payment in China, and the market share of an operator in the relevant market reached 1/2.
On November 10, the State Administration of market supervision and Administration issued the anti-monopoly guidelines in the field of platform economy (Draft for comments), which put forward the important principles of creating a fair competition order, aiming to prevent and stop monopoly behaviors in the field of platform economy. On the day of the release of the draft, the stock price of large technology platform companies fell sharply.
Ji Shaofeng, an expert on small and micro credit, believes that large-scale Internet enterprises, relying on their technological advantages to master a large amount of data and supplemented by the external characteristics of Internet technology, are likely to form a dominant market position, resulting in monopoly and unfair competition. Using the data, information and customer resources obtained from the business ecosystem of Ali and Alipay, the ant group can quickly gain financial competitive advantage. However, when using the big data of personal consumers to conduct credit evaluation, a lot of data will involve personal privacy, such as payment, consumption and electricity trading data. Ali, sesame score and ant group can not be clear. Clearly define their respective boundaries and data application scope.
In early 2018, the Alipay circle was in the “Alipay annual bill”. Some participants found a line of special words: “I agree with sesame service agreement”, and acquiescence “consent”. For a while, sesame credit infringed on personal privacy and fermented, and then apologized and ended with Alipay.
Although there are some laws and regulations in the domestic protection of personal privacy, the implementation rules and executive power are still in short supply. Most internet financial companies have great motivation to conduct credit evaluation and risk pricing, ignoring the right to know and privacy of individual consumers, or even using a series of tools such as sesame credit and Alipay. Industry influence forms financial oppression. ” Ji Shaofeng said frankly that the use of advanced information technology by large Internet enterprises often brings great difficulties to the regulatory authorities in risk identification, business supervision and risk disposal. Therefore, from the regulatory point of view, it is also in line with the regulatory mentality to cut technology services and financial business, and conduct classified management for more pure financial business itself and corresponding financial behavior.
In fact, financial regulators have been releasing strong regulatory signals in the early stage.
In September 2019, fan Yifei, vice president of the people’s Bank of China, made a very serious speech at the 9th China payment and clearing forum. He said: “for some time, some Internet enterprises have used their institutions to cross nest payment business with other financial businesses such as credit, forming a business closed loop. The business processing process is difficult to be penetrated and supervised, and it is very easy to cause risk spread across the market.” At the same time, he stressed that such institutions “did not fully understand and grasp the risk nature and business boundary of financial business”, and hoped that they “actively cooperate with supervision, effectively rectify the credit business beyond the scope of business, and eliminate the potential risks of expanding cross financial business through payment”.
In the view of the industry, this is the ant group.

It is worth noting that, although the financial regulatory authorities are worried about financial technology products such as joint loans, licensed financial institutions are very willing to cooperate with head financial technology companies such as ant group. Before that, an industry person once told Caijing: “the amount of loans made by cooperating with ants is very popular, and many banks still can’t get it.”
“Huabei, Jiebai and Baitiao have been successfully operated for seven or eight years, and the non-performing rate has been well controlled. This is a high-quality asset verified by the market.” A head financial technology company told Caijing that “small and medium-sized banks just lack good assets, so in the process of joint loans, head financial technology companies are relatively stronger.”
The person further pointed out: “small and medium-sized banks are weak in risk control, especially in dealing with online business. In fact, it is a problem whether these small and medium-sized banks have the ability to do online risk control, which should be borne by the joint loan according to the proportion of capital contribution.”
In the eyes of regulators, the fact that there is no risk at present does not mean that there will be no risk in the future. With the demonstration effect of ant group’s joint loan business, many financial science and technology enterprises have made great efforts, corresponding to the rapid expansion of scale, whether the bottom line of risk control can be completely bet on a technical line, which makes people less and less bottomless.
“Ant’s current business, most of which are not even joint loans, is a complete loan assistance mode, that is to say, it does not pay its own money at all. Its role in the business is to provide customer flow, provide risk control, provide post loan services and so on. In essence, everything is provided and controlled by ant, and the only thing is that the money is not provided by itself.” A senior risk controller also told Caijing that “(ANT) its role here is to charge” service fee “, not to earn interest margin, that is to say, pure off balance sheet business, which is also the root cause of the fact that it is not subject to leverage constraints to a certain extent. If such businesses are not unified into the regulatory perspective, given that the real risk is still completely controlled by it, it is still completely responsible for it It’s not responsible, so it’s more dangerous. ”
In July this year, the investigation and Statistics Department of the central bank issued the “urgent notice on the investigation of online joint consumer loans” to all banks, requiring them to report the data of online joint loans. Among them, the cooperation data with ant Huabei and ant borrowing was specially distinguished. “This shows that even the regulatory authorities can not fully grasp the real joint loan data of Huabei and jiebei.” Su Xiaorui, a senior researcher at the hemp bag Research Institute, analyzed the reporter of Caijing.
In fact, in the IPO prospectus, ant group did not disclose the details of the joint loan. In addition to the overall scale of consumer credit and the overall contribution proportion of ant group, more detailed information such as the specific partners, the proportion of joint loans, and the proportion of joint loans still remain a mystery.
“It’s not easy for regulators to grasp the details of ant group’s cooperation with banks, which may make them feel very anxious.” The aforementioned financial technology personage analyzes to the reporter of “finance and economics” that “is why (the supervision) is the only way to deal with the joint loan.”
According to the reporter of Caijing, many experts and scholars have other opinions on the current practice of supervision. “There is no problem in controlling leverage, but what is the reasonable proportion of investment? Is there a timetable for eliminating regulatory inequality? These are all worth discussing. ”
Clearing up the supervision of financial technology
Since March 2017, ant group announced that it would only do tech (Technology) in the future and support financial institutions to do well in fin (Finance), it has positioned its role in financial science and technology as a consignment platform to provide technical and big data support for financial institutions.
Based on the above technology platform positioning mode, ant group completed a balance loan of 2.15 trillion yuan (mainly relying on the joint loan and loan assistance mode). But obviously, ant group’s positioning of this technology platform failed to evade the sword of financial regulation.
Some analysts pointed out that if according to the requirement that the proportion of capital contribution should not be less than 30% in the new regulations on small loans on the Internet, ant group needs to raise the registered capital of its small loan company to 100 billion yuan. In the eyes of financial intermediaries, the role of financial intermediaries cannot be erased.
“According to the financial attributes of fintech, all financial activities should be brought into the scope of unified supervision.” Liu Fushou, chief lawyer of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, once again clarified the concept of financial technology and regulatory rules in his speech at the State Council’s regular policy briefing earlier this month.
From the regulatory interview to the release of new regulations on small loans, and then to the suspension of listing, the problems faced by ant group and financial supervision no longer stay at the level of game, and both financial technology and financial supervision have been reset.
In the previous IPO, ant group’s price per share was 68.8 yuan, with a static P / E ratio of nearly 100 times, which was equivalent to the valuation of technology stocks, and its technology attribute was recognized by the capital market. Nevertheless, questions such as “lending companies in the guise of science and technology”, “making money in finance and taking the valuation of technology” have been accompanied by ants. Industry insiders pointed out that with the financial commission special meeting and a series of regulatory voices on financial innovation and financial technology, ant group’s positioning may change.
On October 31, less than a week after Ma Yun’s “bombardment” of financial supervision, a special meeting of the financial commission presided over by Liu he proposed that “financial activities should be fully regulated in accordance with the law” and “the same business and subjects should be treated equally”. Afterwards, the content of the meeting was considered to be the regulatory setting for the follow-up of financial technology and financial innovation.
Subsequently, Guo Wuping, director of the Consumer Protection Bureau of the CBRC, wrote an article: “financial technology is a technology driven financial innovation, its foothold is finance, and its essence is financial services.” The article further emphasizes that the core of products such as “Huabei”, “Baitiao” and “willful payment” is not fundamentally different from the credit cards issued by banks, while the products such as “jiebei”, “jintiao” and “micro loan” are not fundamentally different from the micro loans provided by banks.
Some senior people in the financial industry believe that the core of the new small loan regulation is actually to require ant group to increase the proportion of its own capital contribution. In this way, if there is a risk, the ant itself will bear a lot of risk. In this way, ants can carry out business more carefully and reduce the possible losses of financial institutions.

The direct impact of this on the ant group is to reduce the efficiency of the use of funds. With the increase of loan scale, the capital requirement is higher, and the capital profit margin is maintained at a certain level, which will not change with the scale enlargement, and the profit making effect will be greatly reduced.
Affected by the Interim Measures for small loans on the Internet, it is not limited to the ant group. In the view of some industry insiders, the Interim Measures for small online loans are not so much for ant group, but for big tech company and its joint loan business similar to ant group.
In Ji Shaofeng’s view, the Interim Measures for small online loans will also put pressure on big tech, which is engaged in similar joint lending business. “In fact, several drafts of the draft for comments on the Interim Measures for small loans on the Internet have been drafted. This time, it was announced in advance before the promulgation of the regulations on non deposit lending organizations and other higher level laws. This is because financial technology is running too fast, and supervision has certain concerns and is necessary.”
“Finance and economics” reporter learned from a number of people in the industry, including Du Xiaoman finance, Jingdong digital branch, 360 digital branch, etc., all of which carry out joint loan business through their network small loan companies. The issuance of the Interim Measures for small online loans will also have an impact on the corresponding businesses of these companies, which will face certain transformation pressure. However, compared with ant group, the business scale of these institutions is relatively small.
“Generally speaking, financial technology companies that carry out joint lending business through Internet small loan licenses are divided into head, waist and tail. The head is represented by ant group, while the waist is represented by Du Xiaoman, Jingdong digital technology, 360 digital technology and didi finance. The tail is mainly some P2P transformed companies.” The person in charge of a financial technology company carrying out the joint loan business told Caijing that the new rules will mainly bring a fatal blow to many bottom players, while for the head company, it mainly limits its development scale.
With regard to the compliance and supervision of technology enterprises in the name of various “financial services”, Che Ning, Deputy Secretary General of Beijing Network Law Research Association, believes that the current discussions are either focused on the relationship between regulation, arbitrage and innovation, or on the basis of valuation. The real problem is not only to supervise the technology enterprises in the financial field, but also to comprehensively evaluate the impact of the current background, determine its real and appropriate functional positioning, and then build a governance framework for the future.
There is no doubt that in the face of the increasingly complex international and domestic development environment, encouraging scientific and technological innovation and promoting the core position of the real economy in China’s overall modernization drive will continue to be upheld. Based on this, Che Ning pointed out that in this sense, the financial technology surname “Jin” or “technology” is not the main aspect of the contradiction. We need to see that the positioning of financial capital is a means rather than an end, and the key is to effectively prevent and control risks on the basis of the realization of economic and social functions, in place without dislocation, which also requires regulatory innovation.
“The most fundamental is to explore the use of new regulatory methods represented by flexible supervision and behavioral supervision; further, strengthen the coordination and convergence of the top-level design and law enforcement; more importantly, enrich the business ecology in the fields of finance, science and technology and the real economy, and consolidate the long-term foundation for the development of the industry.” Che Ning believes that, for example, alternative public infrastructure can be built in the fields of payment and credit, which can fundamentally weaken the monopoly advantage of platform enterprises, and then explore a new way of regulation that is different from the “rat’s tail”, “hurting the skin and returning to the public”.
Ji Shaofeng believes that the public opinion caused by the ant incident goes far beyond the scope of Finance and supervision. From this, it extends to the questioning of its commercial monopoly, the moral trial of seizing high interest rates, and the dissatisfaction of the public on China’s inclusive financial system and small and micro financial services of banks. The deeper thinking also touches on the public’s opinion on the allocation and supervision of financial resources of state-owned banks and private finance The unfair status of treatment and the worry about the market status of private enterprises.
“When it comes to the omnipotent Encyclopedia of finance, there is no such thing as a magic Encyclopedia of Chinese finance. The most fundamental problem in China’s finance is not pawnshop thought, not Basel agreement, but the uneven allocation of resources brought about by the dual system and the credit failure faced by private enterprises and small and micro enterprises. ” Ji Shaofeng said bluntly that China’s financial technology companies should not be subversive and revolutionary to China’s financial industry, but should be co-workers and menders. It is competition and cooperation rather than confrontation. This is determined by the economic structure of China’s ownership system and has nothing to do with technology. Through the innovation of financial technology, private financial capital promotes China’s banking industry to be more open and equal, to better serve industries and micro businesses. Financial technology companies and private financial capital use the flexibility of the mechanism and the advantages of being close to the market. They should join hands with banks in the system to make progress, and at the same time, they will gradually increase the share and credibility of private capital in the financial market This is the real choice.
IPO prospect and valuation adjustment
Financial technology supervision changes, countless people sigh: if ant group wants to go public as it is, it is not easy!
At the same time, recently came out ant group business split news. “Finance and economics” reporter to ant group to verify, up to the press has not received official response.
Some people in the industry pointed out that there is a possibility that ant group will restructure its business and split its listing. It is not ruled out that the financial services such as payment, small loan and fund sales will be separated. However, this involves very complex business structure and equity changes, which can not be completed overnight. Even if there is no spin off in the end, there may be new changes in the original businesses, and the business scale and risk control system will be different.
According to the original plan, ant was priced at 68.8 yuan per share. The total market value of ant group was 2.1 trillion yuan, more than double the previous round of financing valuation. A + H shares raised the highest or more than 260 billion yuan, setting a new record for the largest IPO in the world. The unprecedented enthusiasm of investors also shows the recognition of this valuation.
But after the “night of regulation” on November 2, everything came to nothing. Many industry insiders told Caijing that the logic of ant group’s valuation has changed, and there is uncertainty about when to IPO again in the future.

Zhang Xiaorong, President of the Institute of deep science and technology, told Caijing that ant group’s 2.15 trillion yuan loan mainly relies on the joint loan and loan assistance mode. If the proportion of investment specified in the new regulations on small online loans should not be less than 30%, this means that the capital of ant group will be supplemented to hundreds of billion yuan according to the new regulations on small online loans. “This number will put a lot of pressure on the ants, which will not only greatly reduce their loan space, but also their profit margins.”
According to the reporter of “finance and economics”, in view of the fact that the growth rate of ant group’s performance is almost certain to decline, many people in the industry believe that the valuation of ant group will inevitably be lowered, but the difference lies in the reduction range.
Ji Shaofeng, a senior small and micro credit personage, said bluntly: “as half of ant’s profits come from highly leveraged credit business, the new rules will directly reduce ant’s credit related profit of 10 billion yuan to about 4 billion yuan, corresponding to the valuation of 2 trillion yuan, the direct valuation will drop below 1.5 trillion yuan.”
However, more views believe that the formal draft of the new regulations on small online loans has not yet been published, and the impact of changes in regulatory conditions on ant performance remains to be observed.
Another valuation factor mentioned is ant group’s own positioning.
In the secondary market, there is a huge difference in PE multiple between financial stocks and technology stocks. The PE multiples of the former are usually around 10 times, while those of the latter are usually higher than 60 times. The PE multiples of Jingdong, pinduoduo and Baidu companies are far more than 60 times. Therefore, according to which positioning valuation has a huge impact on the market value.
A researcher who keeps following ant group told Caijing: “ant group used to be based on the valuation of technology companies. In the future (valuation), the attributes of Finance and technology will be considered, especially if it may change from light capital to heavy capital business.”
Although the regulation has made it clear that the financial nature of financial technology companies will be fully incorporated into the regulation, many professionals have said that for the future positioning of ants, the scientific and technological attributes can not be ignored.
Before this ant group valuation, there are not many domestic companies for comparison. Therefore, institutions in the valuation analysis more use the comparison with the same type of international enterprises.
Ant group, a brokerage Research Institute, had previously given a valuation of nearly 1.8 trillion yuan. Corresponding to its profit forecast in 2021, it is about 36 times PE. The specific valuation logic is: in terms of digital payment and business services, benchmarking overseas payment giant PayPal; in terms of digital financial technology micro loan technology platform business, refer to lending Consumer finance companies, such as club and 360 finance; financial technology platform, benchmarking with credit card and Oriental Wealth, one of the largest online securities brokers in the United States; insurance technology platform refers to American risk management and insurance brokerage company Daxin.
“The three core standards of ant group’s valuation in the future are: the core technical capability, the close combination of technology and finance, and the development expectation of future profit growth. I think it still needs to see whether ant’s business is greatly affected after financial supervision.” Wang Pengbo, a senior financial analyst in the financial industry, said, “if the valuation is based on financial stocks, the ant’s financial logic is not taken into account. It has developed financial business on the basis of science and technology.”
In addition to valuation, another issue that attracts public attention is when ants can restart IPO?
On November 17, at the third innovation economy forum, Fang Xinghai, vice chairman of China Securities Regulatory Commission, said that whether ant group has a timetable for listing depends on how the government reorganizes the regulatory framework for financial technology enterprises, and how companies respond to the regulatory environment.
According to Wang Jiyue, a senior investment banker, after the IPO is suspended, ant group should first come up with a preliminary compliance plan. Secondly, it should wait for the draft of “Interim Measures for small loans on the Internet” to come to the ground to see whether it needs to be adjusted. Thirdly, it needs to obtain regulatory approval and adjust its business to compliance. Finally, it has to re apply for the approval of the CSRC of the stock exchange for issuance, which does not exclude re listing. Of course, the annual report and the prospectus need to be updated.
A fund executive told Caijing that the time may be more than a year. “If an enterprise can not be listed because of major issues, it will take at least six months before it can report new materials, so I think the deadline should be one year.”
However, as time goes on, people are more pessimistic about the IPO timetable of ant group. The expectations of an investment banker who did not want to be named have been extended to more than five years. “In the future, when ants start listing again, the performance period required in the prospectus may need to be all under the new regulatory policy. Listing needs to disclose the performance information of three-year period. Considering the time required by the previous policies and the time required to complete the listing process, it will be at least five years later for ants to complete the listing again. ”
He explained to Caijing: “of course, the estimated restart time is based on maintaining the existing business structure. If we divest the network micro loan business which is greatly affected by the new regulatory policies, it may shorten the time to restart listing. ”
However, some people in the industry have expressed different views. Even if the network micro loan business is separated and listed separately, the speed of listing may not be accelerated. “If we want to split up, we need to withdraw the application for re declaration after adjustment, involving major asset restructuring, major changes in statements during the reporting period, which need to be adjusted, and so on, which will take longer.” Wang Jiyue said.
Su Xiaorui believes that the United loan model will be reshaped, and the future of ant’s two small loan companies will become the focus of market attention. It is expected that players with market strength will prefer to choose consumer finance license rather than online small loan license.
Previously, Chongqing ant Consumer Finance Co., Ltd., which is 50% owned by ant group, was approved for construction in September this year. According to the reporter of Caijing, in addition to setting up a chief compliance officer, ant group’s businesses and departments related to micro loans are facing a more difficult situation. On the one hand, they are waiting for the new regulations to be formally implemented, and on the other hand, they are also trying to find ways to adjust them.
Although there are different opinions on the specific timetable, many people agree that the release time of the new online small loan regulation will be the key factor affecting the IPO restart time of ant group. What ants can do at present is to rectify and wait.

In March this year, the Shanghai Stock Exchange issued the Interim Provisions on the listing declaration and recommendation of enterprises on the science and Technology Innovation Board of Shanghai Stock Exchange, which clearly states that “other enterprises in the field of deep application of scientific and technological innovation in line with the positioning of the science and technology innovation board, such as financial technology, science and technology services, also belong to the scope of science and technology innovation board services.” The regulation is regarded as a friendly signal sent by the science and technology innovation board to financial technology enterprises. It is worth noting that the Shanghai Stock Exchange recently announced through the securities times that it has re applied for the positioning of the science and technology innovation board, saying that it “supports and encourages more” hard technology “enterprises to go public.
(the author is a reporter from Caijing, Yang Xiuhong and intern Zhou Qing also contributed to this article.)