Fintech unicorn Viva Republica gets initial approval to operate digital bank in Korea

The team at Toss

South Korean fintech startup Viva Republica, the PayPal-backed creator of financial services platform Toss, announced that it has secured preliminary approval for a license to operate its digital bank, Toss Bank, in Korea.

Toss Bank will become the third digital bank in South Korea to operate without a physical branch. The other two are Kakao Bank, which was launched in 2017, and K Bank, the nation’s first online-only bank. As of the end of March this year, Kakao Bank had 8.91 million customers and K Bank had around 980,000 users.

Toss Bank is expected to begin operations soon after gaining a final approval for its licence in the first half of 2021, the fintech startup said.

Viva Republica said Toss Bank will provide “groundbreaking new financial services” for the $1.3-trillion Korean banking market. The digital bank licence from the Financial Services Commission of Korea allows Toss Bank to offer current accounts, credit and loan products, and other financial services to individuals and businesses.

“With digital bank license, we will be able to broaden our product offering even, so that we can accelerate our mission to innovate the financial industry,” said Viva Republica CEO SG Lee.

Founded in 2013, Viva Republic launched Toss four years ago as a peer-to-peer (P2P) money transfer service. It has since evolved into a platform providing a range of financial services, including banking, money transfer, dashboard and credit score management.

Toss claims to have been downloaded more than 30 million times and have over 16 million registered users, or over a fifth of South Korea’s population. It boasts of processing total transactions worth more than $48 billion.

The fintech startup had raised $64 million in its latest funding round led by Hong Kong-based equity investor Aspex Management in August this year. The funding had boosted the company’s valuation to $2.2 billion.

South Korea’s digital banking sector offers its own share of challenges. The country’s existing digital banks Kakao Bank and K Bank registered net losses of 21.2 billion won ($18 million) and 79.7 billion won ($68 million) in 2018, respectively, according to data by the Korea Federation of Banks.

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Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

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Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.