Mobile & Online Payments

PayPal invests in South Korean payment app Toss

PayPal invests in South Korean payment app Toss.
Written by Nicolae Bacila

PayPal’s purchase of Toss could harness the growing popularity of mobile payment services in South Korea, says Nicolae Bacila.

Following the success of Venmo in the US, PayPal is looking to capitalise on P2P transfers in South Korea through mobile payment app Toss. However, to stand out from competitors and generate revenue, Toss will need to provide value-added services.

PayPal has recently announced that it’s joining a $48m Series C funding round for South-Korea-based P2P payments firm Viva Republic. The round was led by VC Goodwater Capital and was joined by Bessemer Venture Partners, Altos Ventures and Partech Ventures.

While South Korean P2P transfers generally require a large number of authentication steps, Viva Republic’s P2P mobile payment app Toss creates a simplified solution for consumers. The app allows them to send up to $500 from their phones in three easy steps: enter the recipient, the transferred amount and a password.

Having benefited from deals with the country’s 19 major banks, Toss has been downloaded more than six million times and has facilitated over $3bn in transfers in just two years, making it a success story in the South Korean payments market. However, since most transfers are not revenue-generating, the firm initially aimed to develop a strong customer base, later focusing its efforts on convincing customers to use additional services in order to generate revenue. Consequently, Toss has sought to move beyond P2P into consumer financing with the launch of a financial dashboard, credit scoring and micro-loan features. The company plans to further extend into micro-insurance and cross-border transfers in the future.

Internet banking penetration

While the US market has witnessed the growing popularity of mobile payment service Venmo (owned by PayPal), PayPal aims to replicate some of its experience in a distinct South Korean market environment. In spite of South Korea often being overlooked by the likes of China or India, there is increasing opportunity for transition to mobile payments due to the country’s almost 65% internet banking penetration (proportion of adult population using online banking) and 79% smartphone penetration (proportion of total population using smartphones) estimated for 2017 (according to GlobalData’s Cards and Payments Market Drivers).

Facing strong competition from messaging platform Kakao, which recently gained a $200m investment from Ant Financial for the development of mobile payments solution Kakao Pay, Toss is likely to grow in the South Korean market if it manages to drive usage through its P2P platform and offers enticing value-added services.

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– This article is reproduced with kind permission from GlobalData Financials. Some minor changes have been made to reflect BankNXT style considerations. Read more here.

About the author

Nicolae Bacila

Nicolae Bacila is an analyst on GlobalData's consumer payments team. He has professional experience in business research and analysis and has previously worked with Fortune 500 and FTSE 100 financial services clients. His interest in consumer payments lies particularly in the opportunities and challenges currently faced by developing markets.

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