Tokyo FinTech
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Tokyo FinTech

Our Most Popular Stories of 2019

What a year it has been! Just by taking a look at our ten most popular stories of 2019, you find developments in neobanks (WeBank in China and Mambu as the engine for N26), open banking (JP Morgan Case Study), financial industry structure (Standard Chartered’s platform approach and SBI’s vision of a Fourth Mega Bank), Japan’s unique challenges (cashless and the 2025 Digital Cliff), and — last but not least — blockchain protocols (OmiseGo and BiiLabs promotion of IOTA-based solutions). It has been quite a ride, and we are looking forward to the next decade.

  1. WeBank, Chinese neobank unicorn (July 2019)
    Tencent’s WeBank (微众银行) became China’s first digital bank in December 2014 upon receiving its banking license. Regulations cap Tencent’s ownership at 30%. Other shareholders in WeBank include two financial firms from China’s biggest social-network and mobile-games company’s hometown, Shenzhen Baiyeyuan Investment and Shenzhen Li Ye Group, with 20% stakes each. WeBank was followed by Alibaba-affiliated MyBank (网商银行), as well as Baidu and China CITIC Bank’s aiBank (百信银行). The latter only started operations in November 2017.
  2. Open Banking Case Study: J.P. Morgan Treasury Services (April 2019)
    As J.P. Morgan is stating on their website, “Open Banking is a loosely defined term that means different things to different people. In the US and Asia, open banking typically refers to a broad set of API-based connectivity that allows greater sharing of account and balance information. The most common application of open banking is account aggregation via API where providers give their clients access to accounts held with multiple banks with one simple log-in. In Europe, open banking is increasingly associated with specific aspects of the Second Payment Services Directive (PSD2) including payment initiation (PISP) and account information (AISP) services. In both instances, APIs play a critical role.”
  3. Japan Cashless Payments Map (January 2019)
    We love all that is happening in Japan cashless payments. Alas, it is hard to keep track of it at times, so credit goes to Takashi Hoshikawa, Founder & CEO of Crowd Cast, who published this map in his original post on January 1.
  4. Open Banking & Open APIs in Japan (March 2019)
    Legislation for “Electronic Payment Intermediate Service Providers” came into effect in Japan on June 1, 2018, including a requirement to register with the Financial Services Agency (FSA). By January 2019, 21 parties had done so, and at the end of March the count has almost doubled to 40. Electronic Payment Intermediate Services are defined broadly and include the transmission of payment instructions as well as the processing of basic account, transaction and balance information, for example.
  5. Alex Manson, Head of SC Ventures: The Future of Banking is Bright (March 2019)
    Alex Manson, Global Head of Standard Chartered Ventures, keynoted the IBM “Finance x Digital Shift 2019” conference, and he had one message for the audience: the future of banking is bright. Banking has a great future, but we have to re-invent it, we have to re-wire the DNA.
  6. No Mambu Jambo — the power behind N26 (January 2019)
    German FinTech company N26, operating a mobile bank app that is currently available in 24 European countries, catapulted itself to top continental unicorn status last week, raising USD 300m at a USD 2.7m valuation that put it ahead of media darling Revolut. So the question is, who sold the gold diggers the shovels?
  7. Japan’s 2025 Digital Cliff (July 2019)
    In September 2018, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) published a report on digital transformation, commonly referred to as the “DX Report”. Its key message was that Japan may suffer an economic loss of up to 12 trillion yen per year after 2025 (“2025 Digital Cliff”) if it is unable to leverage new digital technologies to develop innovative business models or modify existing ones in order to drive revenue growth and enhance competitiveness.
  8. SBI to create Fourth Mega Bank (September 2019)
    During his keynote speech at the recent FINSUM conference, Yoshitaka Kitao, President & CEO of SBI Holdings, laid out the company’s ambition to become Japan’s fourth mega banking group alongside the incumbents Mizuho, MUFG and SMBC, through co-creation with regional banks. He described the approach in three phases.
  9. OmiseGO — Production Ready Layer 2 Solution (October 2019)
    The “Unblock Tokyo” conference was held on Saturday, October 5 at BinaryStar in Ginza, Tokyo. Pong Cheechrern, Technical Product Manager at OmiseGO, presented on “OmiseGO’s Plasma: Building a Production-Ready Layer 2 Solution”.
  10. BiiLabs’ IOTA Use Cases (June 2019)
    Lman Chu, Founder and CEO of Taiwan-based BiiLabs, has been a vocal part of the IOTA Evangelist Network (IEN) since its early days in 2017. When he came across blockchain for the first time, he diligently went through the github repositories of more than 1,000 projects to thoroughly evaluate the code, the dynamics of contributors, and finally chose IOTA as the initial foundation for the BiiLabs solutions. The BiiLabs stack has created a middleware layer before adding several solution components on top, allowing future extension to different blockchain protocols, which is just a sound entrepreneurial approach, and provides optionality for their clients.

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Norbert Gehrke

Norbert Gehrke


Passionate about strategy & innovation across Asia. At home in Japan. Connector of people & ideas.