Employees of KB Kookmin Bank pose next to a sign with the logo of its mobile service KB Talking Installment, while holding up dolls made out of company emoticons available in the service at a company retailer in Seoul, Wednesday. / Courtesy of KB Kookmin Bank
By Cho Mu-hyun
KB Kookmin Bank is leading the way in the emerging “smart” financial market.
Like all businesses, the financial industry is adjusting business practices and the way it approaches consumers to the changing atmosphere prompted by the popularity of smart devices.
According to the Bank of Korea, subscribers to mobile banking based on mobile devices reached 16.79 million as of June. More and more consumers are searching for financial products and services using the Internet and social network services available on smartphones.
KB, realizing the associated fierce competition ahead due to the huge potential of the new platform to open up new opportunities, is pushing to establish a strong foundation to acquire the biggest share in the sector.
It launched a banking service optimized for smartphones called KB Star Bank in April, 2010. The number of subscribers reached 1 million in May last year and 3 million in April this year. In two months, this number skyrocketed to 4 million as of June thanks to KB’s new initiatives to aggressively market the new platform.
The bank attributes the fast-paced increase to employees who work for a chip-based, mobile banking service called Bank On, set up in 2003, who have deep knowhow about interconnecting analogue businesses to digital models. KB is targeting 10 million members for the near future, without a specific date set but with the ambition of hitting this target as quickly as possible.
Through available mobile online platforms, services such as checking nearby real estate prices, opening an account book viewable through Twitter, and finding ATMs owned by local banks will be activated.
The company led by Min Byong-deok is also developing and releasing financial products optimized for smartphones.
KB Smart Star Installment/Money Deposit acquired 10,000 accounts 17 days after it launched on October 25, 2010. The service adapts a farming theme, in which consumer accounts are depicted as farms that they need to grow. Savings are represented on screen as farm animals such as cattle or pigs that customers buy and manage. The company says the service is aimed at those in their 20s and 30s. As of Monday, the service has a sales balance of 2.5 trillion won.
KB Talking Installment is a similar service that has a company emoticon talk to consumers and makes various facial expressions whenever they perform banking transactions.
When Internet banking was first introduced in 1999 in Korea, people only accessed it through personal computers and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer Web browser. But now there are other Web browsers, and mobile operating systems (OS) to consider.
Starting in the second half of last year, KB Kookmin Bank developed an open banking system that can access different OS and Web browsers to equalize the service level of both platforms. A KB spokesman said that new services and apps are planned for the second half of this year.
The firm plans to open a ‘smart’ retailer soon that will integrate offline and online services to provide diverse ways through which consumers can manage their accounts.