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More Evidence of Asia’s Obsession With Fintech Firms

February 28, 2017

Images Of Wireless Payment Methods In Hong KongImages Of Wireless Payment Methods In Hong Kong
Signage for Ant Financial Services Group's Alipay, an affiliate of Alibaba Group Holdin., is displayed at a cashier counter inside a Sa Sa International Holdings store in Hong Kong, on Nov. 1, 2016. Photograph by Anthony Kwan—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Global investment in financial technology venture firms grew 10% last year to $23.2 billion, consultancy firm Accenture said on Tuesday, fueled by huge investor appetite in China and Japan.

Fintech investment in China more than tripled to $10 billion from 55 deals last year, representing 90% of fintech ventures in the Asia-Pacific region.

Japan also saw a large spike with fintech ventures totaling $154 million from 14 deals in 2016, more than double the previous year’s $65 million, said Accenture, whose analysis was based on data from CB Insights.

Fintech ventures typically leverage technology, such as cloud data storage or smartphones, to provide cheap and easy-to-access services from loans and insurance to payment services and crowdfunding.

Investment in Chinese fintech ventures was buoyed by blockbuster deals such as a $4.5 billion fundraising round at Ant Financial Services Group, an affiliate of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group.

China’s second-largest e-commerce company also raised $1 billion for a consumer finance subsidiary, Accenture said.

“Many of China’s financial services companies are making investments in fintech companies and exploring cutting-edge solutions such as blockchain technology,” said Albert Chan, Accenture’s managing director of financial services in China.

In Japan, the spike in fintech ventures was good news for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who sees the industry as key to breathing new life into the country’s long-stagnant economy.

Strict regulation, scant access to funding and weak demand for innovative financial services from a risk-averse population had previously made Japan barren ground for fintech ventures.

Japan made legal changes last year to attract more fintech ventures, including easing curbs on bank investment in non-financial firms.

The country also became one of the first to regulate virtual currency exchanges at a national level, a move seen as boosting investors’ trust after the high-profile collapse of the Mt. Gox bitcoin exchange in 2014.

Bitcoin exchanges bitFlyer and Quoine ranked second and third respectively by size of investment in Japanese fintech ventures last year, the data showed.