[THE INVESTOR] SINGAPORE -- “We want to create an eco-system if you will, of mobile banks to form a system, an infrastructure for innovation,” Yun Ho-young, CEO of Kakao Bank told The Investor on the sidelines of Money20/20, the world’s biggest conference on fintech and payment services that made its Asian debut this week.
The success of its rivals -- as of now, K bank is the other internet-only bank in Korea that has a license to operate -- is vital for survival, Yun stressed, highlighting the importance of forming a community.
Kakao Bank CEO Yun Ho-young at Money20/20 Asia on March 13. Money20/20
He added that despite having come to the event to promote Kakao Bank internationally, its focus for the time being is on scaling up the domestic business.
“I think we still have much room for growth in Korea,” Yun said with a laugh when asked about his plans for launching overseas. “For now, we’re focusing on adding more accounts in Korea.”
He admitted that many companies are approaching Kakao Bank, asking for pointers, and partnerships, but he it is still too premature to consider overseas tie-ups or partnerships, hinting that he is well aware of how hurried growth could lead a company to ruin.
“I guess the fact we grew to over 5 million users in less than a year since launch, I think that was it for these people, it’s proof of Kakao Bank’s scale of operations and magnitude,” the CEO said.
Unlike many other speakers and firms who approached Money 20/20 for a slot, Kakao Bank was recruited by the organizers, proving just how red-hot it is right now in the world of mobile banking and fintech.
“We were surprised, and we didn’t know it is such a big event, but while we were preparing, and when we came here, we realized just how big it is,” Yun said.
He added that while it’s still premature to see how Kakao Bank’s model can be applied to other Asian regions, namely in Southeast Asia, there will be “many ways to do this.”
With the exception of countries like Singapore and Hong Kong, Southeast Asia’s financial system is still developing. Digitally, however, there has been notable progress in recent years on the fast penetration of devices. According to research firm Euromonitor, smartphone penetration exceeds 50 percent on average in six major Southeast Asian nations. That ratio will surpass 70 percent by 2021.
Due to the fast growth of mobile bank users in Korea, Southeast Asian countries have been showing keen interest in firms like Kakao Bank. Reflecting the trend, Yun addressed an enthusiastic audience on March 13 about the firm’s keys to success.
He also had a fireside chat with industry people, where he was peppered with questions on what makes Kakao Bank tick.
Yun cited convenience, speed, accessibility, communication, technology, UI/UX and a flat work culture as some of the factors behind the bank’s exponential growth.
The Kakao affiliate was launched in July 2017. It offers financial services at much lower prices, and along with K bank was able to provide services that were reserved for offline, or only at conventional banks.
The launch of internet-only banks in Korea has opened up more avenues for people who don’t have access to conventional systems, or want faster and less cumbersome services. At the same time, there are still lingering concerns about security and customer protection.
By Kim Ji-hyun (firstname.lastname@example.org)