Payment systems

Piping up

Away from America, the financial world’s nervous system is being rewired

TWO WEEKS before Christmas, executives from OneConnect, a Chinese technology firm, boarded a plane to New York. They landed in a chilly atmosphere: American legislators were about to bar Huawei, a telecoms giant suspected of spying for Beijing, from supplying American agencies. But OneConnect did the job. On December 13th it listed on the New York Stock Exchange, raising $312m, which valued it at $3.7bn. Analysts expect the loss-making firm’s share price to climb by more than 70% in the next 12 months.

OneConnect supplies the artificial brain and nervous system of financial firms that go digital, says Dai Ke, its strategy chief. It serves all China’s top lenders and 99% of the next tier down. It is expanding in Asia and recruits in America, where it runs a research lab, yet few people have ever heard of it. It belongs to a new breed of Chinese firms that are rewelding the pipes channelling money in the developing world. They are waging a “proxy battle” against American giants, says Huw van Steenis of UBS, a bank.

With America readier than ever to close the liquidity taps on rivals, China is investing time and money in building a private track. It has rolled out its own messaging system to…