The controversy around Huawei has died down a little, even as the company considered getting out of 5G altogether in order to save its broader business from US sanctions. Politics can stay irrational longer than Ren Zhengfei's company can stay solvent, and the US is convinced that Huawei is secretly a state actor. The Chinese state though is not having things entirely its own way and it's worth watching what plays out with Tencent and Alipay, which have reportedly refused to hand over credit data to the PBOC's credit scoring body Baihang. "In particular, since Tencent and Sesame hold the most customer data by far of any of their peers, they have the least to gain from pooling their credit data with Baihang," writes the FT. One Baihang employee, who asked to stay anonymous, said the bureau wanted information from Tencent and Alipay. "Names, ID and phone numbers, histories of borrowings and paybacks." The state had initially encouraged the companies to create their own credit bureaux but then - unsurprisingly - decided in 2018 to centralise the whole affair under the name Baihang. This belies the fact that credit scoring is becoming a real time business, and much of this was pioneered by Alipay and Sesame Credit, which is tied in real time to customer supply chains and sales. The static credit score is a thing of the past, and Alipay and Tencent have customers who may not have bank accounts but don't necessarily want their everyday activity mapped in real time. These real time data flows, enabled by APIs, can draw in dozens of different metrics from mobiles and online services, providing useful and workable data. And this of course is the Softbank play. While WeWork and Uber have made 2019 a bad year for Masa Son, don't forget the company's deep investment across businesses such as OakNorth in the UK and Alipay in China, and a host of other fintechs that specialise in real-time data flows.
Fintechs in the UK regard the FT's Alphaville with caution, as the Alphaville team are prone to do things such as look at financial information and ask hard questions. Today it's got Curve in its sights after the card aggregation app raised more than £5 million "But Monzo, for all our questions about its business model, is extremely transparent about its commercials. For instance this year, it took the step of publishing a full annual report, even though it had no real need to. So perhaps Curve should take a leaf of Monzo's open book? But then again, as one person on Curve's crowdfunding page put it, 'given the that crowd investment is nearly 400 per cent over-committed in less than 2 hours nobody seems to care ;-)'. Well, at least for now they don't."
Central banks around the world have been moving in concert to do something about the general air of economic inertia and largely decided this week to do nothing, or nudge interest rates slightly further downwards. US Federal Reserve governor Jay Powell announced a cut of 25 basis points and then slunk out of the building with the US President tweeting at him as he left: ""Fed chairman Jay Powell and the Federal Reserve Fail Again. No "guts," no sense, no vision! A terrible communicator!" About every ten years, US newspapers fret about Japanisation of the US economy, which is mean to suggest a decade ahead of stagflation and dragging along. Europe is bracing for the same thing. At least there's Libra to kick around and make finance ministers look tough and proactive. In the wings, Binance founder Changpeng Zhao is whispering to regulators that his new government-friendly stablecoin is better than Libra. The Winklevoss twins still hope their Gemini coin will prove attractive to baffled regulators.
The Daily briefing will return on Monday.