Ant Financial reduces same-day withdrawals from its money market fund to manage liquidity risk
Ant Financial, Alibaba Group’s financial arm, will drastically reduce the amount of money that investors can withdraw each day from its money market fund, in a move it said was taken of its own accord to manage liquidity risk.
From June 6, investors in Ant’s money-market fund Yu’e Bao will be only be able to transfer 10,000 yuan (US$1,577) per day to their bank accounts, down from the 50,000 yuan limit currently. Yu’e Bao is the world’s largest money market fund, accumulating US$266 billion in assets by the end of the first quarter by allowing millions of Alipay users to stash their idle cash in the fund, with no limits on time frame or a requirement for minimum investment.
An Ant spokesperson said that withdrawals from Yu’e Bao to users’ Alipay accounts remain unaffected, at 50,000 yuan daily. Alipay is Ant Financial’s digital wallet service, which allows users to store cash and make online payments.
“The voluntary adjustment was made as part of the Yu’e Bao platform’s ongoing risk management optimisation process, which is designed to better protect the interests of individual investors,” Ant Financial said in a statement.
According to the 2017 annual report from Tianhong Asset Management, manager of the fund, over 99 per cent of users are individual investors, and the average amount each has invested in Yu’e Bao is about 3,300 yuan. This means that a majority of Yu’e Bao’s users will be unaffected by the decrease in same-day withdrawal limits.
Yu’e Bao’s daily withdrawal limits for the purpose of paying off credit card debt or existing loans from Ant Financial’s consumer loan product Huabei remain unaffected. the company said.
Alipay has more than 520 million users, according to the company, and is one of the leading third-party payments provider in China. Alipay, together with Tencent’s payments service WeChat Pay, process trillions of dollars worth of transactions each year.
Yu’e Bao’s popularity stems from its generous yields. Its seven-day annualised yield often exceeds 4 per cent. The high yields, together with the convenience of investing money in the fund, have attracted millions of investors who use Alipay for everything from making mobile payments to paying utility bills.
Last year, Ant Financial moved to limit the size of its Yu’e Bao fund by imposing a ceiling of 100,000 yuan per individual, down from its original 1 million yuan as it looked to reduce investment risk for users and better manage the fund.
Earlier this month, Ant said that it would offer two additional money-market funds managed by third-party asset management firms to customers, giving Alipay users more options to invest their money.
But Ant Financial, Tencent and other financial holding companies have also come under increasing regulatory scrutiny. Regulators are mulling new rules that may force companies that are involved in at least two financial sectors to obtain licenses from China’s central bank and maintain minimum capital requirements, according to a Bloomberg report.
Alibaba is the parent company of the South China Morning Post.