But it’s not the only sign the seemingly inevitable breaching of the wall of traditional finance by Big Tech companies may itself be facing enormous disruption.
"The Chinese Communist Party emphasised the priority of greater financial equality through the economy by making sure huge companies… don’t garner too much power.”
Along with these measures in China, Google has abandoned long held plans to launch its own banking service, Plex, and the threats from Apple and Amazon seem, for the moment, to have moderated. Even on the startup front, the fintech assault has dispersed: most recently Monzo, one of the UK’s highest profile “neobanks”, was refused a banking licence in the US while the developing trend of fintech startups being acquired or networked into incumbents continues.
However, new threats to banks do continue to emerge. The US postal service has become the latest in a long history of post offices to see banking as a potential way to enhance revenues in the franchise. The Financial Revolutionist reported “the US Postal Service is launching a pilot program in four cities in an effort to deliver financial services to underserved Americans”.
In its decision, the Chinese Communist Party emphasised the priority of greater financial equality through the economy by making sure huge companies such as Ant don’t garner too much power and become too central in the social economy.
“(it is) necessary," President Xi Jinping said, to "reasonably regulate excessively high incomes, and encourage high-income people and enterprises to return more to society”.
These developments all have their own idiosyncrasies, whether that be governmental, corporate or regulatory. But taken together they complicate the narrative that Big Tech’s scale, financial resources, customer experience expertise, data, and network power would render traditional financial institutions nothing more than service providers.
Ant and Chinese rivals including Tencent, which owns WeChat Pay, are actually the most advanced tech companies in the world when it comes to integrating financial services into a much broader social media ecosystem.
They bring together ecommerce, instant messaging, mobile payments and financial services, deep networks and an extraordinary body of customer knowledge into an ecosystem far more complex and valuable than any bank.
It’s not just a Chinese phenomenon, of course. That’s why Amazon, Google and Apple have all deeply embedded at least some financial services offerings into their own ecosystems whether they originated in ecommerce, search or devices.