[GLOBAL FINANCE AWARDS] KakaoBank CEO Embraces Digital Wave and Innovates in Financial Services


CEO of Kakaobank Yun Ho-Young (Kakao Bank)

Yun Ho-young, CEO of South Korea’s largest digital bank, KakaoBank, has made changes in one of the country’s most conservative industries with innovative contactless services.

Playing a key role in driving the company’s digital banking campaign, Yun positioned KakaoBank to receive the highest market valuation among local financial companies. Investors keep an eye on the CEO’s next steps towards innovation.

“From the start, KakaoBank was different from other commercial banks. Operating only out of touch, we will become a complete “financial platform”, a new sector in the country’s financial affairs, rather than an ordinary bank, “Yun said at a press conference in July.

Yun initially focused on creating a user-oriented application and financial products that were simple and easy to use.

With a simple user interface for the app, KakaoBank has minimized the user’s subscription process. The Kakao Friends characters on debit cards were also a big hit with people in their 20s and 30s.

Yun Ho-young, CEO of Kakao Bank (Kakao Bank)

Yun Ho-young, CEO of Kakao Bank (Kakao Bank)

One of KakaoBank’s most popular products, the 26 Week Installment Savings Plan, allows users to save a fixed amount that increases weekly. Since the initial deposit is small and the deposit period is relatively short, users can save money with less pressure.

KakaoBank also provides a “gye” account service for KakaoTalk mail users, taking full advantage of a platform that can easily bring group members together in one place.

A “gye” is a traditional form of private fund popular among Koreans in which group members make small monthly payments and take turns receiving a lump sum or using it to pay for group trips or events.

With user-friendly services, the bank secured a total of 1.7 million users in the third quarter of this year. Its net profit jumped 96.6 percent year-on-year to 16.8 billion won ($ 14.2 million) during the cited period as well.

In August, KakaoBank became the first digital lender in Asia to go public.

After the bank made its debut in the market, it became the largest financial company by market capitalization in the stock market in the country.

Its market capitalization was listed at around 30.8 trillion won on Thursday, ranking 11th on the country’s main stock exchange Kospi and still number one in the financial sector.

The total value of all bids placed for KakaoBank’s initial public offering ranked second for the year at 2.6 trillion won, behind gaming giant Krafton, which attracted 4.3 trillion of won.

Industry sources claim that KakaoBank’s success lies in Yun’s leadership based on a horizontal corporate culture.

In 2020, Yun introduced a team organizational structure that is less hierarchical and allows for faster decision making.

Yun Ho-young, CEO of Kakao Bank (Kakao Bank)

Yun Ho-young, CEO of Kakao Bank (Kakao Bank)

“KakaoBank’s core value comes from its flexibility. Based on trust, we have to express different opinions and even confront each other in order to resolve issues quickly, ”Yun said in a message he sent to staff in the same year.

Emphasizing that creative ideas come from a less rigid workplace, Yun calls himself Daniel instead of “sir,” and other staff and executives follow suit.

Yun plans to expand middle-interest loans for lenders with lower credit scores and upgrade mortgages remotely, market insiders said.

Yun has headed KakaoBank since 2016. In March, its board of directors decided to extend Yun’s tenure for two years until 2023, his third consecutive term as CEO. Prior to joining KakaoBank, Yun was co-CEO of parent company Kakao.

By Byun Hye-jin ([email protected])

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