Korea's best digital bank 2020: kakaobank
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Korea's best digital bank 2020: kakaobank


It seems hard to believe that kakaobank didn’t even exist four years ago. Formed in 2017 with seed capital from a handful of big financial institutions, including KB Kookmin Bank (which owns 9.9% of kakaobank) and Korea Investment Value Asset Management (with 28.6%), it has taken the country by storm.

Its free mobile messaging app, kakaotalk, is almost ubiquitous in the country, acting as a supremely efficient way to market its new services and apps. It is also profitable, reporting net income of W45.3 billion ($41.4 million) in the first half of 2020 – a 370% rise over the previous year.

In April, it unveiled credit card tie-ups with big issuers including Citi and Samsung Card, and had 400,000 applications in just five months. In July, it rolled out an open banking service that allows customers check their balance at competing lenders – and of course transfer them to kakaobank.

Traditional banks in Korea have come to fear it, even as they rush to tie up new deals with the upstart lender.

Its capital base is expanding too, giving it the scale it needs to become, in time, a true full-service lender, albeit one without all those pesky and expensive physical branches.