Tharon Smith on China's emergence as a global leader in fintech innovation

There are few people better placed to share with us their insights into the rapid growth and evolution of fintech in China than Tharon Smith. Tharon is a founder of Strontium Capital, a VC advisory company focused on Emerging Markets Venture Capital, and Tharon has been a research fellow at Fudan University in Shanghai since [...]

There are few people better placed to share with us their insights into the rapid growth and evolution of fintech in China than Tharon Smith. 

Tharon is a founder of Strontium Capital, a VC advisory company focused on Emerging Markets Venture Capital, and Tharon has been a research fellow at Fudan University in Shanghai since 2007.


From 2013 to 2016 Tharon was the was the organiser and founding director of the largest U.S.-China Fintech Conference (Lendit China, now Langdi Fintech) and Executive Exchange program, and in that role Tharon has worked with more than 2,500 market place lending platforms, in China and worldwide.

In this episode, Tharon talks to us about:
  • China's emergence as a global leader in fintech innovation since 2013.
  • How the biggest challenge for peer-to-peer lending in China was a lack of borrowers.
  • The shift to raise the level credit screening on peer-to-peer lending platforms.
  • The differences in fintech innovation at big institutions and startups in China.
  • Where are the new fintech centres in emerging markets outside of China?
We hope you enjoy this Q & A with Tharon.


Email: Tharon(at)strontiumcapital.com | Linked-In


Detailed show notes
* With thanks to Xuan Shi.
  • Introducing Tharon Smith. (1:03)
  • How Tharon came to live and work in China, and her early focus on emerging markets venture capital in China. (2:14)
  • Tharon's involvement with Lendit from 2013 and the start of Lendit China. (3:20)
  • China emergence as a market leader in fintech innovation after 2013. (5:01)
  • The role of mobile as key driver of fintech in China. (5:34)
  • Why the listing of China-based peer-to-peer lender Yirendai on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) was so significant. (6:20)
  • How fintech in China evolved to wealth management. (7:20)
  • The early days of peer-to-peer lending in China. (7:54)
  • Why fraud was a problem in many so-called peer-to-peer lending platforms. (9.00)
  • The shift to raise the level credit screening on peer-to-peer lending platforms. (10:47)
  • Why the biggest challenge for peer-to-peer lending in China was a lack of borrowers. (11:28)
  • The multiple regulatory challenges over peer-to-peer lending in China. (12:06)
  • The requirement for peer-to-peer lenders to use third-party banks to hold assets. (14:50)
  • The initial lack of clear rules peer-to-peer lending from the Chinese government. (15:50)
  • The similarity of regulatory challenges in China and other emerging markets. (16:20)
  • The lack of an effective credit ratings system in China. (17:00)
  • Why China may be able to innovate in the way credit ratings are done. (17:20)
  • How new financial technology can increase financial access for people in emerging markets. (19:32)
  • Has fintech innovation reached its current limits in developed markets? (21:13)
  • Why the transition in fintech will play out over the longer term. (25:15)
  • Which fintech companies are leading innovation in China? (27:34)
  • The differences in fintech innovation at big institutions and startups in China. (31:00)
  • The origins of many crowdfunding companies in China. (33:30)
  • Fintech lending and investment in real estate in China. (34:48)
  • Where are the new fintech centres in emerging markets outside of China? (35:55)
  • How to connect with Tharon. (40.30)

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