The Silicon Valley Bank fallout has ripple effects on Chinese startups, particularly those backed by U.S. dollar-denominated funds.
U.S. regulators shut down the bank Friday in what has become the country’s second-biggest banking failure. Silicon Valley Bank had built its business on supporting tech startups, including those from China.
The online system for opening an account at SVB had allowed the use of a Chinese mobile number for verification, according to one Chinese tech startup founder who requested anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the situation. The source highlighted that they once had tens of millions of U.S. dollars at SVB.
He’s since moved most funds out, but he said he still had more than $250,000 at SVB.
Along with the backing of a mainstream venture capitalist, a startup could open an account at SVB within a week, the source said in Mandarin, according to a CNBC translation. “Mainstream traditional banks, such as Standard Chartered, HSBC, Citi have strict compliance and it takes a long time to start a bank account with them. It can take up to 3-6 months,” he said.
The source, who founded a fintech company and two other tech companies, said venture capitalists liked working with SVB because the bank allowed the investors to see and approve how the startups used their funds.
“If there will be no SVB, it will harm the tech industry because there is no other bank which provides these two features,” the source said, referring to the speedy account opening for startups and visibility for venture capitalists.
Having a bank account with SVB allowed China-based startups to tap funding from U.S.-based investors, with an eye to a public offering in the U.S. Regulatory pressure from both Beijing and Washington, D.C., has restricted the growth of that China-to-U.S. IPO pipeline in the last two years.
It was not immediately clear how many China-based startups had SVB accounts. However, the CNBC source noted many China-based startups with U.S. VC funding have tended to start off with bank accounts at SVB.
Shanghai-based biotech company Zai Lab said that as of the end of December, about 2.3% of its roughly $1.01 billion in cash and cash equivalents were held at SVB. Most were at JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Bank of China (Hong Kong), Zai Lab said in an official statement.
Another biotech company called Everest Medicines said it had less than 1% of its cash at SVB, and that it expects to recover most of its deposits at the bank through the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
The FDIC said insured depositors can access their deposits no later than Monday morning local time. Its standard insurance covers up to $250,000 per depositor, per bank, for each account ownership category.
However, most deposits held by SVB were uninsured. The FDIC said uninsured depositors will get receivership certificates for their balances.
China joint venture claims independence
SVB’s joint venture in China — held 50-50 with Shanghai Pudong Development Bank — said in a statement it has an independent balance sheet.
Called SPD Silicon Valley Bank, the joint venture had 2 billion Chinese yuan ($290 million) in registered capital, according to business database Tianyancha.
That’s about 6.8% of Shanghai Pudong Development Bank’s registered capital of 29.35 billion yuan, the data showed.
As of the end of December, SVB had roughly $209 billion in total assets and $175.4 billion in total deposits, according to a press release.