China's best digital bank 2017: Agricultural Bank of China
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China's best digital bank 2017: Agricultural Bank of China

Agricultural Bank of China

Agricultural Bank of China has fast-tracked its digital offerings this last year – and the market liked what it saw on its screens. By the end of 2016, ABC counted its internet banking users – across all platforms – at a staggering 711 million, more than half of China’s population.

As ABC’s apps went viral among its traditional farmer and peasant base, it added 119 million new online customers in a year. That’s the equivalent of adding a country the size of Mexico to the ABC roster.

ABC’s gobsmacking numbers don’t stop there. ABC’s customers made transactions worth Rmb14.7 trillion ($2.2 trillion) in the year, an increase of 146% over the previous year. ABC’s website recorded 3.43 billion visits through 2016. Banking by text also took off, with the bank recording 347 million official SMS accountholders, who sent a collective 17.6 billion texts.

Indeed, there’s something of a rural Alibaba-like atmosphere around ABC’s electronic strategy. Its e-business platform helps China’s farmers find customers and trading partners, procure plant, get their output to market and, when the cash rolls in, provide expansion loans and securely manage the wealth to begin the process again. ABC claims 703,000 merchants have signed up for its e-steward services, almost four times more than 2015. They transacted Rmb147 billion worth of business than in 2016, more than three times the previous year.

What’s the trend here? A clue comes from ABC’s own statistics on the use of its ATM network, which rose just 5%. As China rolls out its mobile walled garden across the province, in effect a secured national intranet, ABC’s farmer-customers have leapt over old tech to make ABC one of the country’s most forward-looking institutions.

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