IMF chief sounds alarm on ‘big data disruption’

International Monetary Fund (IMF) managing director Christine Lagarde speaks at a G20 high-level seminar on financial innovation entitled “Our Future in the Digital Age” on the sidelines of the G20 finance ministers and central bank governors meeting in Fukuoka on June 8, 2019. (AFP / POOL / Kiyoshi Ota)
Updated 09 June 2019

IMF chief sounds alarm on ‘big data disruption’

  • Fintech poses significant threat to global financial system, says Lagarde
  • Lagarde said China presents an example of the trade-off between benefits and challenges posed by financial technology

FUKUOKA, Japan: International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde warned on Saturday that the increasing presence of technology giants using big data and artificial intelligence could cause  significant disruption to the world’s financial system.

The rapid development of financial technology (fintech) has increased access to cheap payment and settlement systems for low-income households in emerging countries where traditional banking networks are scarce.

But it has raised concern about the increasing dominance of big technology firms in mobile payments, which could force global policymakers to rethink the way they regulate the banking system and ensure financial settlements are executed safely.

“A significant disruption to the financial landscape is likely to come from the big tech firms, who will use their enormous customer bases and deep pockets to offer financial products based on big data and artificial intelligence,” Lagarde told a symposium on financial technology held on the sidelines of the G20 finance leaders’ meeting in Fukuoka, southern Japan.

While such innovation may help modernize financial markets, they could make the financial system vulnerable such as by putting payment and settlement systems under the control of a handful of technology giants, she added.

“This presents a unique systemic challenge to financial stability and efficiency, and one I hope we can touch on during the G20, and address in a cooperative and consistent fashion.”

Lagarde said China presents an example of the trade-off between benefits and challenges posed by financial technology.

“Over the last five years, technology growth in China has been extremely successful and allowed millions of new entrants to benefit from access to financial products and the creation of high-quality jobs,” she said. “However, it has also led to two firms controlling more than 90 percent of the mobile payments market.”

Addressing the pros and cons of financial innovation is among topics of debate at the two-day meeting of Group of 20 finance ministers and central bank heads that began on Saturday. 


Huawei’s third-quarter revenue jumps 27% as smartphone sales surge

Updated 17 October 2019

Huawei’s third-quarter revenue jumps 27% as smartphone sales surge

  • American companies, significantly disrupting its ability to source key parts
  • Huawei was all but banned by the United States in May from doing business with American companies

SHENZHEN, SHANGHAI: Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd’s third-quarter revenue jumped 27%, driven by a surge in shipments of smartphones launched before a trade blacklisting by the United States expected to hammer its business.
Huawei, the world’s biggest maker of telecom network equipment and the No. 2 manufacturer of smartphones, was all but banned by the United States in May from doing business with American companies, significantly disrupting its ability to source key parts.
The company has been granted a reprieve until November, meaning it will lose access to some technology next month. Huawei has so far mainly sold smartphones that were launched before the ban.
Its newest Mate 30 smartphone — which lacks access to a licensed version of Google’s Android operating system — started sales last month.
Huawei in August said the curbs would hurt less than initially feared, but could still push its smartphone unit’s revenue lower by about $10 billion this year.
The tech giant did not break down third-quarter figures but said on Wednesday revenue for the first three quarters of the year grew 24.4% to 610.8 billion yuan.
Revenue in the quarter ended Sept. 30 rose to 165.29 billion yuan ($23.28 billion) according to Reuters calculations based on previous statements from Huawei.
“Huawei’s overseas shipments bounced back quickly in the third quarter although they are yet to return to pre-US ban levels,” said Nicole Peng, vice president for mobility at consultancy Canalys.
“The Q3 result is truly impressive given the tremendous pressure the company is facing. But it is worth noting that strong shipments were driven by devices launched pre-US ban, and the long-term outlook is still dim,” she added.
The company said it has shipped 185 million smartphones so far this year. Based on the company’s previous statements and estimates from market research firm Strategy Analytics, that indicates a 29% surge in third-quarter smartphone shipments.
Still, growth in the third quarter slowed from the 39% increase the company reported in the first quarter. Huawei did not break out figures for the second quarter either, but has said revenue rose 23.2% in the first half of the year.
“Our continued strong performance in Q3 shows our customers’ trust in Huawei, our technology and services, despite the actions and unfounded allegations against us by some national governments,” Huawei spokesman Joe Kelly told Reuters.
The US government alleges Huawei is a national security risk as its equipment could be used by Beijing to spy. Huawei has repeatedly denied its products pose a security threat.
The company, which is now trying to reduce its reliance on foreign technology, said last month that it has started making 5G base stations without US components.
It is also developing its own mobile operating system as the curbs cut its access to Google’s Android operating system, though analysts are skeptical that Huawei’s Harmony system is yet a viable alternative.
Still, promotions and patriotic purchases have driven Huawei’s smartphone sales in China — surging by a nearly a third compared to a record high in the June quarter — helping it more than offset a shipments slump in the global market.