On March 12th, international best-selling author and global fintech expert Richard Turrin joined the students of Dalhousie’s Fintech MBA course to discuss emerging trends in the cash and digital payments space. The insights he shared were many, each more thoughtful than the last. The following are three of the most valuable lessons for the non-technical yet still intrigued mind.
China: A Window into the Fintech Future
In real-estate the old adage “location-location-location” says it all, in fintech its China, China, China. With respect to digitizing payments (and by virtue much of the transactional economy), China is a global leader. And against all odds, too, with a population of over one billion people, ethnic and linguistic differences, and demographic challenges, they certainly aren’t who you’d anticipate as leaders in the digital payments domain. Why is China so far ahead of the curve? The answer is actually more straightforward to those who have been paying attention, it’s culture. Richard Turrin has spent the better part of the last decade studying and writing about China until he was inevitably thrust into the spotlight when China’s rapid growth became apparent to the world writ large.
A 2017 McKinsey discussion paper points out that internet usage in China has grown from 25 percent of the population in 2013, to 68 percent of the population in 2016. That rapid advancement in such a short period of time has deemed China a hotspot for investment and innovation. One in three of the worlds unicorns is Chinese, and the VC sector is now worth 19% of the worlds total. Although the United States still leads in many of these metrics, China’s rapid growth means that they could overtake the US sooner than people think.
Turrin describes China’s culture as being incredibly modern. He says, quite simply, China loves new things. This gives them an edge having a population that isn’t hesitant to listen, learn, and adapt. It’s useful here to think about the images that shocked the world on New Years’ Eve 2020 out of Wuhan, China, where life was seemingly totally back to normal while the rest of the world was still struggling with mask hesitancy. With respect to the pandemic, few countries have dealt with the recovery as efficiently as China, largely thanks to their willingness to adapt. That same willingness to adapt has fueled their rapid adaption to digital currencies and digital payments, making them the undisputed champions in that arena.
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