NetEase, one of China’s first-generation tech giants, said it will close its personal finance app Youqian after several years of struggling to find a hit in the personal finance services space. The move marks a further retreat from finance-related services that are now facing increased government scrutiny in China.
Youqian, which stopped accepting new premium subscriptions last Wednesday, is primarily a personal financial management tool. It allowed users to connect the app to their bank accounts and monitor their spending. It will continue to operate for existing users until April 1.
Youqian was one of several finance-related products that NetEase launched between 2015 and 2017, most of which failed to gain traction. NetEase credit and loan services including NetEase Baitiao, NetEase Microloan and NetEase Laiqian failed to help the company take on larger rivals like Tencent Holdings and Ant Group.
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Chinese regulators are now looking to rein in the fintech sector, recently targeting Ant Group, an affiliate of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding. On November 3, regulators scuttled Ant’s IPO, which was expected to raise nearly US$35 billion, after last-minute talks with the company‘s senior management led to a “significant change” in Ant’s business environment.
On Sunday, regulators told the fintech giant to fix “a litany of business failings”, ordering it to return to its origins as an online payment provider after some of its loans, insurance and wealth management products raised concerns over financial risks.
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Regulators have also moved to investigate a number of other fintech products on the market, leading to companies including Ant and Tencent to remove many deposit-related products from their platforms this month.
When asked about Youqian, NetEase told the Post that it was a “business adjustment” decision. The company did not comment on the recent industry scrutiny.
NetEase was expanding in fintech until November 2018, when the company suspended NetEase Asset Management, the company’s main portal for accessing its various fintech services. Around the same time, the company’s finance chief executive, Wang Lei, departed to join smartphone brand Vivo as general manager of digital financial services.
Youqian remained one of few finance-related products that NetEase kept running, but the service struggled to differentiate itself in the crowded market for personal financial management apps. At least 10 similar apps outperformed Youqian by the number of hours that people spent using them in the first quarter this year, according to research firm Analysys International.
Still, Youqian maintained a group of loyal users for years, some of whom said on social media that they were sad to see the app go. In response to NetEase’s decision, one user wrote on Weibo, “I’ve used this bookkeeping app for so long. And now I’m told that the app will close. I really like the simplistic user interface of the app. Can we please at least have an offline version of this, NetEase?”
“I haven’t used a better asset recording app,” another person grieved on Weibo. “This makes me feel like a jilted lover.”
Youqian users will no longer be able to log in to the app when the service ends in April, rendering it inoperable, NetEase said in a statement on Monday. The company is urging users to export and delete data stored in the app.
This article NetEase to shutter personal finance app Youqian in further retreat from finance-related services first appeared on South China Morning Post