How China's stock rout disrupted online funds, in a good way

China's market selloff may have decked traders but one group is benefitting: the country's home-grown online finance companies.

"[Funds have been] drawn out the past several months and back the past several weeks," Sabrina Peng, president of Alipay International, said at the DBS Asian Insights Conference last week.

China's largest money market fund, Yu'e Bao, is offered by Alipay, a unit of Ant Financial, which is an independent company under the Alibaba umbrella; Yu'e Bao, which is an online offering, had around 578.93 billion yuan (around $93.25 billion) in assets at the end of 2014.

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In the wake of volatility in the mainland's stock markets, Alipay launched an "I want stable happiness" campaign, telling users that when they've had enough of dealing with high risk, they can come back to Yu'e Bao, Peng said.

The mainland's stock markets certainly turned high risk recently. The Shanghai Composite is off about 26 percent from its 52-week high, but the rally that proceeded it was so fast and furious that the index is still up around 85 percent over the past year. Despite the government's introduction of extraordinary measures to support the market, shares have remained volatile. With a minimum deposit of just one yuan, Yu'e Bao targets China's small investors, a group that was hit particularly hard by the selloff.


Johannes Eisele | AFP | Getty Images

Money-market funds have been the fastest growing asset management segment in China, driven by retail investors using online offerings, Fitch Ratings said in a June report.

Yu'e Bao, which offers an around 4 percent interest rate, similar to bank rates, may not be the only one seeing funds rush back.

"The last three months, less and less people invested in our platform, but the last couple of weeks a lot of capital has come back, with three to four times more lenders and borrowers today," Soul Htite, founder of Dianrong.com, an online credit marketplace, said at the conference.

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Dianrong connects borrowers, mostly consumers or small businesses, with either individual or institutional lenders; it gets paid around 0.5-1.0 percent of the loan amount, while lenders can receive around 6-20 percent from borrowers. But Dianrong has avoided lending money for buying stocks.

"Part of our risk management is to try to verify as much as possible the loan purpose. We are specialized in small businesses. A restaurant is a borrower that we feel comfortable with," Htite said. "We feel much more comfortable lending money to someone like that than to lend money to someone who is not even discussing the interest rate. He thinks that he's going to make 40-50 percent more money by paying 15 percent."

To see more of the discussion on how online offerings are changing China's banking system, tune in to our special "Asia Tomorrow: Digital Disruption" on Friday, July 17, 2015, 5 p.m. SG/HK, with repeats over the weekend.

—By CNBC.Com's Leslie Shaffer; Follow her on Twitter @LeslieShaffer1