Visitors check out fintech products at a bank’s booth during a financial expo in Shanghai in September. [Photo/Xinhua]

BEIJING-The long queues at automated teller machines have become a rare sight as people in China are already accustomed to going out with mobile phones instead of wallets, and many can’t even remember when they withdrew cash the last time.

Rather than visiting brick-and-motor banks, people, especially the younger generation, turn to mobile phones and computers since the internet and apps cover most banking services.

Official data showed that the number of ATMs dropped by 68,600 from the end of last year to September, while 2,790 more commercial bank outlets were shut down in the first 11 months, following the closure of more than 6,280 over the past two years.

The change at banks is just one example of the country’s efforts to churn out financial technology or fintech innovations and boost the digital economy, when demand for contactless service mounted and new business modes flourished in the stay-at-home market amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite disruptions due to COVID-19, the country’s fintech innovations continued to provide better solutions for individuals, the real economy and social development, with the support of information technology including cloud computing, big data, artificial intelligence and mobile internet.

“As digital payment, especially mobile payment, gets popular in the country, basic financial services are generally available in all urban and rural areas,” said Guo Shuqing, chairman of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, at the Singapore Fintech Festival.

“The accessibility and scale of China’s mobile payment is world-leading, and real-time reception of deposits, withdrawals and remittances have been realized,” he said.

The emergence of new business modes such as livestreaming has further boosted China’s online consumption among stay-at-home customers in 2020, with online retail sales over 8 trillion yuan ($1.22 trillion) in the first three quarters, up 9.7 percent year-on-year, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

New vitality has been injected into the country’s real economy through fintech innovations. Digital credit has substantially increased the availability of inclusive financing by performing smart risk management with big data, which reduced reliance on collateral, said Guo.

Inclusive loans to small and micro companies surged 30.5 percent year-on-year to 14.8 trillion yuan at the end of September, while outstanding loans to private firms rose 5.4 trillion yuan from the beginning of the year, an increase of 1.6 trillion yuan from the same period last year, according to the CBIRC.

Digital transformation of the financial sector has also contributed to the country’s sprint toward the goal of eradicating absolute poverty. In the first quarter, online sales of farm produce reached 93.68 billion yuan, a rise of 31 percent year-on-year, data released by the Ministry of Commerce showed.

The pilot of digital renminbi or e-CNY, which realizes point-to-point payment between consumers and sellers, shows China’s determination to eliminate information and financial risks in the digital economy.

The pilot, which has been launched in the cities of Shenzhen, Chengdu and Suzhou and the Xiong’an New Area, is expected to expand to more areas.