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  • Andrew Work

Korean Fintech: The Secret Is Out

If Korea isn’t on your radar, you might be missing out.

At what Ryan Moon, Co-CEO of called “The biggest pure fintech gathering I’ve ever seen in Seoul,” startup entrepreneurs, bankers, investors and more gathered at D.CAMP in the hip Gangnam district. The startup hub saw over 120 fintech players come together with an international audience.

“Fintech startups in Korea. It’s the best kept secret in Asia.”

–Juwan Lee, CEO of NexChange

Juwan Lee, CEO of NexChange, was visibly impressed. “It is very surprising – the development of fintech startups in Korea. It’s the best kept secret in Asia.” The FintechO2O Pitch and Panel Night, popularised in Hong Kong and New York, came to the Land of the Morning Calm.

A panel of local and international visitors discussed the challenges of fintech operators in Korea and abroad. Panel moderator Andrew Economos (Chief Strategy Officer, NexChange) was visiting and meeting with startups and Korean giants like Samsung during the week.

While everyone else is looking for unicorns, he believes, “It may not be one unique Korean fintech innovation that goes global but rather a combination of fintech apps forming a deeper value chain; in essence a new type of financial services company.”

“Some of the largest financial institutions in Korea are paying to use our artificial intelligence, blockchain, and robo-advisor solutions today.

–Min Kim, Chief Strategy Officer for DAYLI

One company that fits the bill is DAYLI Financial Group, which invests in and nurtures a network of firms that together provide an integrated approach to serving clients in the mobile and online financial space. Korea is perhaps best known for its robo-advisors, but DAYLI is competitive in the sector – and has its sights set on the entire range of fintech options.

Min Kim, Chief Strategy Officer for DAYLI, is confident that their broad spectrum of services is paying off, “Some of the largest financial institutions in Korea are paying to use our artificial intelligence, blockchain, and robo-advisor solutions today. We can compete with anybody at a global level and many global firms are impressed by our solutions.”

That company confidence has seen them wade into the Japanese market, often a tough slog for foreign entrants. In September 2016, Quarterback Investments, DAYLI Financial’s robo advisor subsidiary, acquired Doors Capital, an investment advisory firm in Japan. They have high hopes for that the firm will open ‘Doors’ across Japan’s financial sector.

One of those firms being nurtured by DAYLI is Newsystock, a provider of stock market intel and allows users to share investment strategies in real time. CEO Moon has taken the company to Hong Kong and they provide intel on Chinese markets as well. The natural next stop is the Middle Kingdom and Newsystock aims to launch in China in 2017. CEO Ryan Moon says, “ We are considering partnership with local brokerage companies as a B2B or B2B2C play.”

One option to take on the world is Hong Kong. Cyberport’s Chief Public Mission Officer, Dr. Toa Cham, gave an overview of the highly connected fintech ecosystem in Hong Kong, including generous grants available to firms locating in Hong Kong,even if originally from abroad. InvestHK’s Charles D’Haussy – himself a successful fintech entrepreneur – explained that firms can get help setting up, establishing bank accounts and visa advice from InvestHK – all for free.

Ryan Moon was all ears and is aiming for Hong Kong to begin tackling China, explaining, “We wanted to find a opportunity in the Chinese market and HK is a gateway to Chinese market, with well developed economy and system. Also, the Hong Kong market itself is big enough market for initial expansion to Asia Pacific market.”

DAYLI and Newsystock aren’t alone as Korean firms like Korbit, Viva Republica, and Streami Inc. go global. Of course, Korean industrial strategy has always been to build big at home and then go global. That means a strong fintech scene in Korea – which should attract new players.

In part two: The Good, The Bad and the Big Money.

This is part I in a three part series. Click here for part two and part three, where we hear from startup and big finance players, including:

  • Eugene Bang, Managing Director & Country Head, DBS Bank, Seoul

  • Min Kim, Chief Strategy Officer, DayLi Financial

  • Sonia Lee, Global Partnerships Manager, D.CAMP

  • Andrew Lee, CEO, Ybex

  • Charles D’Haussy, Fintech leader, InvestHK

  • Dr. Toa Charm, Chief Public Mission Officer, Cyberport

  • Ned Phillips, Founder and CEO, Bambu

  • Ryan Liew, Director – Strategy and Business Development, Call Levels

Photo: iStock

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