Is E-Finance Moving Stock Market’s Cheese?

Within less than 9 months, Yu’ebao, the poster boy of e-finance products, has attracted more accounts than those in the China’s stock market. This mostly attributes to Alibaba’s (parent company of Yu’ebao) huge user base. At the same time, Yu’ebao’s convenience, high profitability and low entry barrier are also driving reasons to this success. Without doubt, the fast rise of Yu’ebao and every other e-finance product are surely disrupting the game of traditional financial markets.

This disruption has struck a few nerves. Naysayers state that e-finance, instead of revolutionize the finance industry, it is killing the industry. Or, in a more specific way, it is destroying the stock market by drawing cash away.

To these opinions, I disagree. The defeat of China’s stock markets and commercial banks wasn’t because of the disruption of e-finance, but because of themselves.

Due to the government’s interference, these traditional financial industries have long been unable to meet people’s expectation on profitability. The stock market was prosperous because there was no other option to make money. Now with the debut of e-finance, people realized there’s a much more profitable while safer way to invest. It’s only natural to see the disruption.

So it all comes down to the rate of return. If the stock market can perform better and produce a rate of risk/return at least neck to neck to the e-finance products, this “disruption” should stop. In fact, the 6% annual return of Yu’ebao isn’t that high for a financial product. It was only popular because of the low risk. This so called “e-finance revolution” reveals problems of China’s stock market: the return and risk are unpredictable.

Like it was mentioned above, this unpredictability was because of the government’s interference. Unlike it is in most developed stock markets where the primary function is to allow companies to raise capital for profitable investment opportunities, China’s stock markets, was created to recapitalize and restructure large state-owned enterprises that otherwise would have gone under. These state-owned companies, by nature, rely on state subsidies and governmental deals. That is to say, the growth of these companies depends on policy makers’ decision rather than the market. This is unpredictable to normal people. Since the stock market is driven by these state-owned enterprises, it inherits the unpredictability as well.

So who’s actually responsible for the disruption on China’s stock market? The stock market itself, and, of course, the government. After seeing two decades of unstable performance, people have realized the truth of the stock market. There have always been problems on the stock market system. E-finance only magnifies them to the public. Now with PBOC finally set its mind to make changes, let’s hope e-finance will survive and serve as a catalyst, too.