Even in the experimental world of fintech, few observers would have believed that a messaging app best known for producing cute cartoon stickers would diversify into Korea’s leading virtual bank. But that’s what happened with Kakao Bank.
Yun Ho-young took over control at Kakao Bank in March this year, after previously sharing the CEO role with Lee Yong-woo. Yun had joined the bank in 2015 after parent company Kakao acquired his previous employer, the internet portal Daum.
Yun has been leading one of Korea’s most spectacular tech business stories. It was Yun who set up a task force to create the bank in the first place, but even he must have been taken aback by the response. Within four days of its launch in July 2017, the bank had attracted over 820,000 customers. After one month that number grew to 3.5 million.
Much of this early success can be attributed to the bank’s connection to Kakao Talk, which is by far Korea’s most popular messaging app. The critical mass of users — Kakao Talk is downloaded on 94% of Korean smartphones — certainly helped, but it was also due to Yun’s ability to integrate financial expertise and customer understanding into Kakao’s world-leading technology.
Looking forward, Yun is eyeing a lucrative IPO. The listing move has been discussed for the past two years and in April this year Yun said the company would go public in the second half of 2020.