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Internet bank hopefuls turn out

As tech giants bow out, retailers and smaller firms join race

Jan 28,2019
Although major IT firms may have lost interest, key retailers and smaller technology firms are still eager to enter the race to open new internet-only banks.

BGF Retail, which runs mega-convenience store chain CU, and e-commerce firm WeMakePrice are some of the most recent companies interested in opening the country’s next internet banks. This revelation comes after the Financial Services Commission (FSC) released the names of 55 firms that attended last Wednesday’s information session for new internet banks upon the request of Liberty Korea Party (LKP) Rep. Kim Jong-seok Sunday. The government has decided to allow two internet banks to launch by the first half of 2020.

BGF Retail is considered one of the most promising candidates to follow in the steps of K bank and Kakao Bank. After unsuccessfully applying for the internet-bank license in 2015 as part of a consortium led by Interpark, it has since tried to expand its financial offerings by working together with banks and diversifying payment methods at CU stores.

WeMakePrice is another strong, if not unexpected, candidate. Its attendance marked the first time the e-commerce giant demonstrated interest in joining the internet-bank race. The company has also been actively expanding its financial services, recently partnering with Bithumb to begin accepting online payments in cryptocurrency.

Among other notable attendees were TmaxSoft and Finnq. TmaxSoft, an enterprise software developer, has huge capital reserves and strong financial technology capabilities. Mobile personal finance provider Finnq is a joint venture by Hana Financial Group and SK Telecom that has the two companies’ backing.

Major shopping platform Interpark also attended the session despite previously announcing it had no plans for an internet bank, leaving open the possibility it might also compete for a spot. Several law and accounting firms - including Kim & Chang, Deloitte Anjin and Yulchon - also attended the information session, raising the possibility they came in the place of clients.

Major financial firms - such as Shinhan Bank, Hana Financial Group, Kiwoom Securities and Kyobo Life Insurance, and such IT service providers as Oracle and LG CNS - also attended. The FSC will accept applications from internet-banking hopefuls this March and announce up to two final candidates in May.


BY KIM EUN-JIN [kim.eunjin1@joongang.co.kr]


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