Fintech to Korea

Trends and opportunities

The market

The Republic of Korea’s (ROK, also known as South Korea) rise in fintech is no surprise as South Korea has one of the highest levels of smartphone penetration and fastest mobile broadband services globally. Fintech growth to date has been concentrated in digital payments and the entire sector is forecast to grow by 20 per cent annually until 2020.

Fintech growth in South Korea is driven by the financial services sector, and not by the traditional banking sector. The banking sector is limited by regulatory requirements (e.g. the regulation mandating at least one face-to-face transaction) and the view that their suite of current online platforms meet customer needs. The non-banking sector are seeking innovative ways to provide services and solutions for wire transfers, settlements, and credit loans, that will overtime challenge the traditional banking sector.

The South Korean Government has positioned the country as a center for tech companies, including hosting competitions for fintech solutions and a commitment of US$230 million to help foster startups. To date there are over 400 fintech companies in South Korea, many of which have benefited from both government and private sector investment. The investment in fintech startups hit a record high in 2016 with more than KRW 100 billion (A$116 million) invested, an increase from KRW 8.4 billion (A$9.8 million) in 2014.

To further grow the fintech sector, the government is easing regulations that constrain either the startup business model or the end product. So far they have lifted 11 rules or regulations, including allowing the crowdfunding model of capital raising. There are further plans to ease regulations around big data, robotic services, and web banking that will broaden the type of solutions fintech startups can target.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government is also positioning Seoul as an Asian fintech hub and Smart City and have signed an memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Entiq, a startup fund, to develop a fintech center that aims to cater for 150-200 companies by 2017.

Key developments

  • Widespread use of mobile (stock) trading service: 48.5 per cent of stock trading accounts proceed their stock trading via mobile platforms.
  • Advent of mobile asset management: According to industry experts, 300 -1,000 new individual investors subscribe to mobile asset management services every month.
  • Rapid growth of the P2P loan market: South Korean P2P Finance Industry Association estimates that the P2P finance market has grown KRW 390 billion in November 2016 from KRW 35 billion late 2015.
  • Rapid growth of mobile payment service: The mobile payment service market has increased rapidly in the last year in the number of deals and amount (KRW 29.5 billion worth amount from 1 million deals per day, 42.2 per cent and 41.7 per cent increase each from last year).
  • The country’s first internet-only bank opens in early 2017: Korea Telecom and Kakao Corp won a license for internet-only bank in November 2015, and K-Bank of Korea Telecom will start operations in early 2017.
  • The government announced that they will be working to make the country a ‘coinless society’ by 2020 with pilot projects starting in 2017. The plan is expected to encourage on-line/mobile payment further, creating new demands for solutions for mobile payment and Payment Gate (PG).
  • Opportunities for solution providers of mobile payment/settlement, PG, Near Field Communication (NFC), and Cybersecurity etc.
  • A survey conducted by Fintech Forum found that the average size of South Korean fintech companies is 10-49 employees (accounting for 50 per cent), while between five to nine employees is 30 per cent and 50 to 500 is 20 per cent.

Opportunities

Opportunities for Australian businesses exist in the following areas:

  • blockchain
  • bitcoin
  • crowdfunding
  • robo-advisors
  • big data and data analytics
  • cyber security
  • authentication
  • payment.

Opportunities for Australian fintech

K-Startup Grand Challenge

Launched in 2016 K-Startup Grand Challenge invites foreign startups for a three months all expenses paid acceleration program in Seoul. In 2016, 40 startups participated and 20 startups were awarded follow-on funding of up to US$130,000.

Seoul Global Startup Centre (GSC)

Seoul GSC is a brand new facility in the heart of Seoul, specifically for foreign startups. It offers free co-working and office space, networking events, courses and seminars.

Seoul Global Centre

With several facilities around Seoul, this organisation provides legal, financial and other useful advice for foreign business people in Seoul, as well as office space.

Advice for the Australian fintech in South Korea

  • The public’s perception of fintech startups is improving, and there is increasing support for fintech startups.
  • Early movers have an advantage.
  • South Korea’s a small market, but Koreans are big spenders.
  • It’s easier doing business in Korea than Japan and China.
  • The local market is open for business.

Key developments between Australia and South Korea

  • MOU between the Korea Fintech Centre and Stone & Chalk was signed in Seoul, April 2016.
  • MOU between the Seoul Metropolitan Government and Tyro Fintech Centre was signed in Sydney, June 2016.
  • MOU between Stone & Chalk and Daily FG, signed in June 2016.
South Korean fintech startup map

Some of the most prominent South Korean fintech organisations include:

Payments

  • Korea NFC
  • M.h mind
  • Paygate
  • X Engineering.

Bitcoin

  • Bitchain
  • Coinone
  • Coinbee
  • Coinplus
  • Korbit
  • Coinplug
  • Cloud Wallet.

Personal finance

  • ASTOCK
  • Mybank
  • Lifeguide
  • SNEK.

Remittances

  • Toss.

Security

  • Thecheat
  • Coinstock.

Crowdfunding

  • Tenspoon
  • Opentrade.

Lending

  • 8 percent
  • Villy
  • Funda
  • Peoplefund
  • Lendit.

Fintech incubators

  • Fintech centre
  • Hanwha Life Insurance
  • KB Financial Group
  • Shinhan Financial Group
  • Woori Financial Group
  • NH Financial Group
  • Hana Financial group
  • Mirae Financial Group.

Co-working spaces in Seoul

  • Google Campus
  • Maru180
  • D Camp
  • Wework
  • Myworkspace
  • The bitcoin centre
  • Seoul GSC
  • Hive Arena
  • Fast Five
  • 10K
  • Seoul Global Centre
  • Cowndog.

Venture capital (there is no designated VC investing into fintech only).

  • Korea Venture Investment Corp
  • Pathfinder
  • K Cube Ventures
  • Daily Financial Group
  • DSC Investment
  • Value Invest Korea
  • KTB
  • LB Investment
  • Partners Investment.

Conglomerate venture capital

  • Hanwha Life Insurance
  • Hanwha Life Insurance
  • KB Financial Group
  • Shinhan Financial Group
  • Woori Financial Group
  • NH Financial Group
  • Hana Financial group
  • Mirae Financial Group.

Global VCs with South Korean portfolio

  • 500 Startups
  • Strong Ventures
  • Y Combinator
  • KOISRA Partners
  • Formation Group
  • Bain capital
  • Qualcomm
  • DT Capital Partners
  • Bluerun Ventures
  • D3 Jubilee
  • Softbank Ventures
  • Goldman Sachs
  • Cyber Agent Ventures
  • Altos Ventures
  • Hillhouse Capital
  • Tapjoy Korea
  • Goodwater Capital.

Accelerators (There is no dedicated fintech accelerator.)

  • ActnerLAB
  • N15
  • KStartup
  • Primer
  • Spartlabs
  • Dev Korea
  • Future Play.

Private equity

  • MBK Partners
  • IMM Private Equity
  • Skylake Incuvest.

Fintech

  • Paygate is a South Korean fintech that supported and sponsored the World Fintech Forum. The Seoul based company is not only a local payment service provider, but also provides South Korean credit card processing services, online bank transfers, mobile micro payments.
  • Villy is a peer-to-peer lending South Korean fintech platform created in 2015 and currently serves only the South Korean market.
  • Sentbe is a money remittance fintech that focuses on Filipinos sending money home from South Korea. 
  • Blocko is a fintech startup founded in late 2014, working on a product called ‘Coinstack’, a blockchain service to give application developers who are not familiar with blockchain the environment, development tools and building kit to build their applications. 
  • Viva Republica recently launched a mobile phone money-transfer application. The company was created in 2011, and the P2P application was launched in December 2015.
  • Happy bean is a crowd-founding online donation platform created by Naver, South Korea’s leading search engine. 
  • KakaoPay and Bank Wallet Kakao, are two services developed by the South Korean developer KAKAO. Both are features of the South Korean mobile messaging application KakaoTalk. The first solution allows consumers to pay, and the latter provides money transfer between friends.
  • KakaoPay.
  • Bank Wallet Kakao.
  • SamsungPay is the e-wallet and mobile payment service developed by the South Korean conglomerate for their mobile devices. It was first launched in South Korea in mid-2015, followed by the United States and the rollout will continue globally.
Fintech exhibition in South Korea

There is only one annual fintech exhibition in South Korea - Inside Fintech. In addition, the South Korean Fintech Centre and financial institutions hold regular demo days for fintech startup companies.

Links and industry contacts

Contact details

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