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日本Fintech发展速度有限 只因民众对银行服务太满意?

Natalie Shiori Fleming是美国金融服务公司Payoneer监管及银行基础设施战略的负责人。她在2016年Tech in Asia Tokyo发表的主要讲话中称,2016年日本在金融科技领域正处于全盛发展时期。

同时她还是日本金融科技协会的一员。该协会是由当地乃至全世界的金融玩家组成的专为金融科技创业公司服务的组织。

从2016年1月开始,网络检索“金融科技”热度迅速升温。

日本金融科技协会由2014年10月开始最初的10名成员已经发展成如今的189人,其中包括风投公司、各大企业和个人。金融科技公司的不断涌现和越来越多人开始对金融科技的兴趣,带动了金融科技行业的不断成长。

据Google显示,从2016年1月开始,网络检索“金融科技”热度迅速升温。除此之外,2015年涌入金融科技行业的投资资金高达9900万美元之多。

金融科技的发展步伐不会很快就放缓。Natalie从研究公司Yano ICT发布的一份报告中指出,预计在接下来的四年间,当地的金融科技市场总销售额将翻九倍,从2015年的3360万美元增长到5.63亿美元。Natalie还称,增长的部分将得益于未来将涌现的越来越多的B2B创业公司,而目前大部分都是B2C的公司。

成长道路上的阻碍

诚然,发展之路不可能一帆风顺。不过,日本在金融科技发展方面将会遇到一些很有意思的障碍,这和其他市场情况截然不同。

Natalie从最直接的一个案例讲起,例如日本想要吸引大量投资所面临的问题。“融资100万美元是易事,但是,1000万美元甚至是1亿美元就没有那么容易了。”这样,就会有大批的公司申请上市,因为对他们来说,想要融得大笔资金别无他法。

对于很多国家来说,相应法律和监管条例的缺失也是问题之一。日本在这方面已经领先一步,例如近期通过的立法,规范了日本境内数字货币的兑换,同时还成立了一系列工作小组,成员包括日本央行、财政部。不过,如果想成立一家公司并且让它发展壮大,还有很多行政问题需要一一攻克。

员工流动性弱也是一大问题,除了日本,新加坡等国也正面临这个难题。Natalie解释称:“很多有能力的员工都更倾向于在大公司工作,因为相比于在创业公司工作,前者工作稳定,薪水可观。”

不过,还有一些是日本面临的独有问题。

“相比于美国和英国,日本民众对传统金融服务较为满意。”

一件很有趣的事情是,日本民众竟然对银行业服务感到非常满意。很显然,“我觉得银行运作机制非常棒”并不是一句对银行不满的话,问题就在这里了,和世界其他国家例如美国、英国不同的是,日本民众对传统金融服务行业还挺满意。所以Natalie说:“显然,日本人不太热衷去寻求新的金融服务,因为他们的需求基本已经得到了满足。”

据国际货币基金会称,尽管日本GDP排名世界第三,但是日本民众53%的资产都是以现金或者存款的方式体现。显然,日本人的金融知识十分匮乏,由此阻碍了投资的发展,让财富管理和投资方向的金融科技服务公司的发展之路十分艰难。

不过,整体上日本的金融科技还是处于发展中,越来越多的人也开始尝试打开这个封闭的市场,通过融资或者创业。日本金融科技协会当然也在履行其职。Natalie最后总结道:“我们目前还是一个刚满一年的创业公司,但是我们会不断成长,竭力支持日本金融科技生态领域的扩张。”

Japan’s relationship with fintech has blossomed in 2016, said Natalie Shiori Fleming during a keynote speech at Tech in Asia Tokyo 2016. Natalie leads US financial services company Payoneer’s regulatory and banking infrastructure strategy in the country.

She is also part of the Fintech Association of Japan, an organization put together by local and international ecosystem players to fly the banner for financial technology startups.

From January 2016 onwards, search interest in the term “fintech” in Japan has spiked.

The association has grown from 10 people in October 2014 to 189 members today, including venture capital firms, corporates, and individuals. Fintech has similarly grown in Japan as companies started emerging and interest in the sector increased.

From January 2016 onwards, search interest in the term “fintech” in Japan has spiked, according to Google. More than that, the previous year saw investment flow into the sector to the tune of US$99 million.

Growth in the sector isn’t letting up anytime soon either. Natalie pointed to a report by research firm Yano ICT that expects local fintech market sales to grow ninefold in the next four years, from US$33.6 million in 2015 to US$563 million. Part of the growth, Natalie said, will come from the fact that there will be a lot more business-to-business startups, where so far there have been mostly consumer-oriented companies.

Barriers to growth

The road ahead isn’t without its challenges, naturally. But there are some interesting hurdles for fintech in Japan that set it apart from other markets.

Natalie started off with some straightforward ones, like the difficulty in attracting substantial funding in Japan. “It’s easy to raise US$1 million, it’s hard to raise US$10 million or US$100 million,” she said. That leads to a lot of companies going public just because they see no other way to fundraise on a large scale.

Tech in Asia Tokyo 2016 - Natalie Fleming on fintech in Japan

Natalie Fleming presents a snapshot of the Japanese fintech landscape. Photo credit: Tech in Asia / Michael Holmes.

Laws and regulations are also a problem that fintech faces in most countries it’s trying to grow in. Japan has taken steps forward, like recently legislating to regulate digital currency exchanges in the country and establishing a number of working groups involving the Bank of Japan and the Ministry of Finance. But there is still a lot of bureaucracy to get through in order to launch and grow a startup.

Lack of mobility in the workforce is another problem that Japan shares with other countries, including Singapore. “A lot of very smart people prefer to work for large companies where there’s stable work and a good salary versus working at a startup,” she explained.

But there are some problems that are unique to Japan.

There is less dissatisfaction with traditional financial services than in the US and the UK.

One interesting thing is that the Japanese are too satisfied with their banks. While “my bank works too well” isn’t a statement you associate with a problem, the issue there for fintech businesses is that there is less dissatisfaction with traditional financial services in Japan than there is in other parts of the world like the US and the UK. “[The Japanese are] less likely to want to look for a different service that will better meet their needs,” Natalie said.

Another issue is that although Japan’s GDP is counted as the world’s third highest according to the International Monetary Fund, 53 percent of Japanese assets are in the form of cash and deposits. There is a lack of financial literacy that hinders investment and makes it harder for fintech services in the wealth management and investment sectors to grow.

Still, the space is growing in Japan and more people are trying to unlock this notoriously insular market, through fundraising or through entrepreneurship. The Fintech Association of Japan will keep doing its part too. “[We’re] still a startup as we’re hitting our first anniversary, but we will continue to grow and support the expansion of the Japanese fintech ecosystem,” she concluded.


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