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China’s Digital Wallets Offer a Glimpse at the Future of Payments

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Chinese consumers conduct 11 times more mobile payments than their counterparts in the United States, so as we look to the future of digital wallets, China is a natural place to start.

Mobile Payments USA vs. China

Forecasts for mobile payment adoption in the United States remain flat for now; however, two major brands – WeChat and AliPay – offer a glimpse of what the future may eventually hold for mobile payments in North America.

Digging Through WeChat’s Wallet

WeChat, a platform owned by Tencent, is a force to be reckoned with. It’s fast closing in on one billion monthly active users (MAUs), and the average user spends over an hour on the app each day.

WeChat users aren’t just unusually chatty – there’s actually a high level of utility to the platform that North American apps have yet to match. WeChat’s wallet alone is packed with features ranging from mobile payments to ride hailing. Below is a look at just some of the features.

WeChat Overview

WeChat’s wallet is packed with features that are constantly evolving, but here are some current features worth noting:

Payments in the real world
“Scan-and-pay” is widely popular in China, particularly in big cities where it’s hard to find a product or a service that cannot be purchased with a mobile device. According to China Channel, over 90% of Chinese consumers have adopted WeChat as a method of payment in offline purchases. That compares with a 32% adoption rate for debit and credit cards.

Red Packets
WeChat has seen tremendous growth of its wallet by capitalizing on China’s tradition of gifting cash-filled red envelopes (known as hongbao). In fact, the volume of digital red packets sent has skyrocketed from 16 million to 14.2 billion in only three years.

Digital red packets

Digital Tip Jar
WeChat also offers a glimpse at a new avenue for content creators to monetize their hard work online. WeChat’s Tip Jar feature allows users to send micro-payments to writers, musicians, artists, and more.

Go Dutch
Splitting the bill in a busy restaurant or pub setting can be major hassle. “Go Dutch” is a feature that allows WeChat users to divvy up a bill and pay using the app. Features like Go Dutch make digital payments an appealing option because they solve a real world problem.

Third-Party Apps
WeChat has robust third-party integration within its wallet. Functionality is so deep that users can order anything from transportation to home cleaning services with the push of a button. China’s largest e-commerce, group buy, and ride hailing companies are already on these platforms, but Western brands like Starbucks are getting in on the action too.

Going Head-To-Head

The mobile payments sector is becoming increasingly binary as WeChat and AliPay dogfight for market share. AliPay – Ant Financial’s payment brand – was once the undisputed leader in mobile payments, but the company has recently seen its market share eroded by an increasingly scrappy WeChat. WeChat has smartly leveraged its popularity and massive user base to get people using it as a payment tool as well.

Market share of digital wallets

ApplePay, which had high hopes for the Chinese market, continues to lag far behind domestic brands.

Growing Pains for Digital Wallets

China’s central bank recently imposed tougher rules regarding scan-and-go payments, a move that Ant Financial and Tencent are publicly praising, but that may dampen the meteoric growth trajectory of mobile payments. The new regulations take aim at aggressive tactics used to capture market share from competitors, and set limits on how much consumers can spend daily using barcode-based payments.

Despite growing pains, mobile payments and digital wallets will continue to be a dominant part of the Chinese economy. The only question is, when will the rest of the world follow suit?

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Chart of the Week

The Best and Worst Performing Wealth Markets in the Last 10 Years

This telling chart shows how national wealth markets have changed over the past decade, highlighting the biggest winners and losers.

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The Best and Worst Performing Wealth Markets

A lot can change in a decade.

Ten years ago, the collapse of Lehman Brothers sent the world’s financial markets into a tailspin, a catalyst for years of economic uncertainty.

At the same time, China’s robust GDP growth was reaching a fever pitch. The country was turning into a wealth creation machine, creating millions of newly-minted millionaires who would end up having a huge impact on wealth markets around the world.

The Ups and Downs of Wealth Markets (2008-2018)

Today’s graphic, using data from the Global Wealth Migration Review, looks at national wealth markets, and how they’ve changed since 2008.

Each wealth market is calculated from the sum of individual assets within the jurisdiction, accounting for the value of cash, property, equity, and business interests owned by people in the country. Just like other kinds of markets, wealth can grow or shrink over time.

Here are a few countries and regions that stand out in the report:

Developing Asian Economies
In terms of sheer wealth growth, nothing comes close to countries like China and India. The size of these markets, combined with rapid economic growth, have resulted in triple-digit gains over the last 10 years.

For the world’s two most populous countries, it’s a trend that is expected to continue into the next decade, despite the fact that many millionaire residents are migrating to different jurisdictions.

Mediterranean Malaise
European nations saw very little growth over the past decade, but the Mediterranean region was particularly hard-hit. In fact, eight of the 20 worst performing wealth markets over the last decade are located along the Mediterranean coast:

Rank (Out of 90)Country% Growth (2008-2018)
89🇬🇷 Greece-37%
87🇨🇾 Cyprus-21%
86🇮🇹 Italy-14%
85🇪🇸 Spain-13%
84🇹🇷 Turkey-11%
82🇪🇬 Egypt-10%
80🇫🇷 France-7%
76🇭🇷 Croatia-6%

European Bright Spots
There were some bright spots in Europe during this same time period. Malta, Ireland, and Monaco all achieved positive wealth growth at rates higher than 30% over the last 10 years.

Australia
While it’s expected to see rapidly-growing economies as prolific producers of wealth, it is much more surprising when mature markets perform so strongly. Singapore and New Zealand fall under that category, as does Australia, which was already a large, mature wealth market.

Australia recently surpassed both Canada and France to become the seventh largest wealth market in the world, and last year alone, over 12,000 millionaires migrated there.

Venezuela
The long-term economic slide of Venezuela has been well documented, and it comes as no surprise that the country saw extreme contraction of wealth over the last decade. Since war-torn countries are not included in the report, Venezuela ranked 90th, which is dead-last on a global basis.

Short Term, Long Term

In 2018, global wealth actually slumped by 5%, dropping from $215 trillion to $204 trillion.

All 90 countries tracked by the report experienced negative growth in wealth, as global stock and property markets dipped. Here’s a look at the wealth markets that were the hardest hit over the past year:

Wealth MarketWealth growth (2017 -2018)
🇻🇪 Venezuela-25%
🇹🇷 Turkey-23%
🇦🇷 Argentina-20%
🇵🇰 Pakistan-15%
🇦🇴 Angola-15%
🇺🇦 Ukraine-13%
🇫🇷 France-12%
🇷🇺 Russia-12%
🇮🇷 Iran-12%
🇶🇦 Qatar-12%

The future outlook is rosier. Global wealth is expected to rise by 43% over the next decade, reaching $291 trillion by 2028. If current trends play out as expected, Vietnam could likely top this list a decade from now with a staggering 200% growth rate.

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China

Animation: The Biggest Economies in 2030

By 2030, the complexion of the global economy could look very different. This animation shows how the world’s biggest economies will change over time.

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By 2030, the complexion of the global economy could look very different than it does today.

According to recent projections from Standard Chartered, a multinational bank headquartered in London, the next decade will see emerging markets like India and Turkey ascending the global economic ladder to become tomorrow’s powerhouses.

Visualizing the Boom in Emerging Markets

Today’s animation is based on a previous chart of the week we created that shows how economic growth is expected to unfold in the coming years.

View the projected change in rankings for the biggest economies from 2017 to 2030 below:

If the projections used in the above video prove to be accurate, the largest economy in 2030 will be China with $64.2 trillion in GDP after adjusting for purchasing power parity (PPP).

That’s nearly $20 trillion more than India, which will be the second largest by that time.

From Good to Great

While the sheer size of the Chinese economy is certainly an exclamation point, perhaps the more interesting story here is the ascent of developing markets in general.

By 2030, it’s projected that seven of the world’s 10 biggest economies will fall into that category:

RankCountryProj. GDP (2030, PPP)GDP (2017, PPP)% change
#1China$64.2 trillion$23.2 trillion+177%
#2India$46.3 trillion$9.5 trillion+387%
#3United States$31.0 trillion$19.4 trillion+60%
#4Indonesia$10.1 trillion$3.2 trillion+216%
#5Turkey$9.1 trillion$2.2 trillion+314%
#6Brazil$8.6 trillion$3.2 trillion+169%
#7Egypt$8.2 trillion$1.2 trillion+583%
#8Russia$7.9 trillion$4.0 trillion+98%
#9Japan$7.2 trillion$5.4 trillion+33%
#10Germany$6.9 trillion$4.2 trillion+64%

Over this timeframe, countries like Egypt, China, India, Indonesia, Turkey, and Brazil will all see their economies expand with triple-digit growth in PPP terms.

In particular, India’s economy will be buoyed by rapid population growth in its cities, which are some of the fastest-growing urban areas on the planet. At the same time, Egypt’s economy is expected to grow from $1.2 trillion to $8.2 trillion according to the bank – although we would add that this seems quite optimistic.

Finally, developed economies like the United States, Germany, and Japan will keep growing – but just not at the blistering pace of developing countries. If these projections turn out, the Japanese and German economies will round out the list with the #9 and #10 spots, respectively.

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