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China Economy

New rules to bolster trust in China’s peer-to-peer lending platforms

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 May, 2016, 10:52pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 May, 2016, 11:38pm

Shanghai has revamped its peer-to-peer platforms information disclosure requirements as the sector is trying to win back investors with more transparency after high-profile frauds impacted public trust on the booming yet under-regulated industry.

Market watchers said the requirements, issued by the Association of Shanghai Internet Financial Industry, could set a benchmark for the sector that is trying to shed public doubt and embark on a regulated, sustainable growth model.

The organisation said yesterday that member online lending platforms will need to disclose detailed information on shareholders, senior management, staff, 90-day overdue products rate, financing parties, investors, and business partners such as guarantee companies and insurers, in a revamped 49-item, five category information disclosure list.

Members are required to disclose the information monthly.

Shi Pengfeng, CEO of wdzj.com, a portal that tracks the P2P industry, said the association’s call for a transparent information disclosure sets a milestone for the industry and Shanghai is leading in pressing ahead with stricter scrutiny.

“In the future, the association may rate such platforms based on their information disclosure in better guiding investors,” Shi said. “The sector, hit by fraud, needs to win back trust from investors.”

Swindlers have been taking advantage of the e-financing boom as regulations struggle to catch up. Ezubao, once China’s biggest P2P online lending firm, collected more than 58.2 billion yuan (HK$69 billion) from over 900,000 investors in less than two years.

The firm, which promised investors big returns, has seen at least 21 executives, including senior company official Ding Ning, arrested. Ding allegedly embezzled over 1.5­ billion yuan, spending lavishly on himself, his wife, lover and staff.

In a similar case last year, hundreds of investors protested in Beijing and Shanghai, saying they lost US$6 billion to a Fanya Metals Exchange investment product that promised them up to 14 per cent annual returns and the flexibility of depositing and withdrawing funds at will.

Hu Yueting, a China GF Bank wealth management saleswoman, said her business improved as clients returned trickled back amid concerns of fraudulent behaviour.

“Investors now prioritise securing principal,” she said.

Among mainland banks, the one-year interest rate offered on savings accounts fell to 1.5 per cent after six interest rate cuts since November 2014.

Some dubious investments promise annual returns of up to 15 per cent.

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