Start-up of internet-only banks in South Korea

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26 February 2015
KyongSun Kong
South Korea’s government has begun to move to permit internet-only banks. It is in discussion with a group of financial institutions, vendors and other institutions, and the outline for internet-only banking services will be set up around April. In South Korea, most banks, we can say all banks, already offer direct banking including internet, mobile and smartphone, and many customers are accustomed to them. However, dedicated internet banks have not been allowed to date due to regulatory and other issues. Currently, there are two main challenges to setting up an internet-only bank in South Korea. 1. Identity confirmation through direct channel: the current law requires customers to open a new bank account at a face-to-face channel with their ID. So people visit a bank branch at least once to start banking transactions, although direct banking services are at a quite mature level in South Korea. The requirement for identity confirmation should be revised accordingly when permission is granted for dedicated internet banking. 2. Relaxation of the Separation of Banking and Commerce: in the current law, institutions belonging to the commerce sector cannot provide banking services, and their ownership share in a bank is stringently limited at 4%, compared to 25% in US and 20% in Japan. To encourage the entry of various kinds of sectors into the internet-only banking market, the relaxation of this law is one of the important issues. Currently, a number of institutions including banks, vendors and other sectors are negative on entering the market and will keep a wait-and-see attitude for now. Before entering the market, they should learn from case studies of overseas internet–only banks. To cite a case, there are many good examples of online account opening using the advanced facial recognition tools. I will appear at a conference on internet-only banking in Seoul on March 10, and will present case studies and learnings from the Japanese market. Anyone interested in the event details, please visit http://fintechkorea.com/.

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