[Photo/CFP] China's top financial technology platforms have removed online deposit products following scrutiny from regulators concerned about risk issues. Ant Group's Alipay, Du Xiaoman Financial, JD and Tencent Wealth Management have all stopped the sale of banks' online deposit products via their apps. Ant Group, whose Alipay app provides a gateway to a torrent of financial products, on Friday removed the online deposit products of several banks. The move was quickly followed by JD Digits, the financial arm of e-commerce group JD, and wealth management firm Lufax backed by Ping An Insurance Group Co, which took down its interest-bearing time deposit products over the weekend. In a statement, Ant said it has voluntarily removed the online deposit products of banks in accordance with the recent regulatory requirements for online deposit services, and added it will not affect existing individuals who have already deposited money with banks via Alipay. Financial units of big technology companies have been offering interest-bearing time deposit products that mature in three or five years offered by typically smaller regional banks, and take a cut for exposing these financial institutions to a much wider audience that would otherwise be unattainable due to geographical constraints. These products usually provided higher yields than State-owned banks. For instance, a three-year deposit product on the Alipay platform was offered at a top rate of 4.125 percent per annum while the highest interest offered by Bank of China in similar conditions is 3.85 percent. "China's regulation on the administration of savings has stipulated only banks and credit cooperatives can handle savings-related business. Internet platforms, which largely market these products through massive online traffic, are not technically eligible for such services," said Dong Ximiao, chief researcher at Merchants Union Consumer Finance Co Ltd. Stricter antitrust restrictions are widely anticipated in the coming year, as Chinese officials vowed to intensify antimonopoly supervision and prevent "disorderly capital expansion" in the tone-setting Central Economic Work Conference that ended on Friday. Zhao Zhanling, vice-director of Beijing ZhiLin Law Firm, said that tougher supervision over monopoly and unfair competition has been identified as one of the eight key tasks for economic development in 2021. It is an indication that financial innovation should be advanced under prudent supervision, he said. "The development comes days after several internet companies were fined for failing to declare previous acquisition deals. It is likely that the internet sector may see a new era of antitrust supervision," said Zhao. Anti-monopoly themed laws and regulations will be further optimized next year, according to Yue Zhongming, spokesman of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the National People's Congress Standing Committee. The identification of platform monopolies, management of data collection and use and protection of consumers' rights and interests were previously detailed as the areas in focus. Sun Tianqi, the financial stability director of the People's Bank of China, the central bank, told a conference last month that around 50 banks, small and medium-sized lenders mostly, have offered their deposit-taking products on 11 platforms with an average balance of 500,000 yuan, according to the Paper. Sun said these banks offer high returns and low thresholds for accepting customers, with nearly 50 percent of them requiring only 50 yuan to start a deposit, and called for strengthening financial supervision. Zeng Gang, deputy director-general of the National Institution for Finance and Development, said some banks avoided self-disciplinary restrictions on deposit rates by partnering with third parties in offering internet-based deposits. "This would lead to overly fierce competition among banks and a hike in the cost of deposits, which will eventually hinder banks from lowering financing costs for the real economy. Containing internet-based deposits will help these banks return to a rational track of development by formulating their demands for deposits reasonably … and improve customer loyalty by offering more diversified products that better meet the needs of customers," he said.