What is FinTech? Who are the FinTech start-ups to look out for?

Financial Technology (FinTech) is currently one of the most exciting business areas in the IT industry. It is an industry with a number of domestic start-ups as well as venture capitalist firms that have steadily expanded their services by successfully raising large sums of money through the different seed funding rounds. FinTech is an industry that is growing at an exponential rate, and also one of the best industries to start a new job in regardless of your experience.

Whether you’re a graduate looking for a job, or a working professional looking to enter the booming FinTech sector, it’ll be good to know some of the major FinTech start-ups you should keep a lookout for in Japan.

 

Major fintech start-ups in Japan: Payments companies

Firstly, let’s look at some of the FinTech start-ups and ventures in the field of payments. With the rise of smartphone payments and remittances in China from 2016 to 2017, a variety of companies, from major players to start-ups, have been focusing on the future of smartphone payments in Japan. The number of users and opportunities to use e-payments is also increasing rapidly due to the entry of big technology players such as Yahoo! and Rakuten.

 

1. Paidy

Paidy joined the unicorn club this March with a US$120 million funding round, one of the largest ever raised by a FinTech start-up. Amazon Japan had also started using Paidy, and expectations for further growth are high. Paidy also now offer users an option to use them at any Visa merchant online to take advantage of Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL).

 

2. Z Holdings (representative services: PayPay, LINE, Yahoo!)

Z Holdings is the developer and operator of Japan's most popular e-payment services, including PayPay. 2021 has seen the release of a number of new initiatives in the e-commerce sector, which are expected to lead to further integration of payments.

 

3. Kyash Corporation (representative service: Kyash)

Kyash, a remittance and payment system, is a pioneer of the BaaS model in Japan. This year, Kyash has become available for use in car rental outlets and at Seven Bank ATMs, and the company has also launched a post-payment service, which is expected to further improve convenience in the future.

 

[BNPL] Fintech start-ups

A post-payment system called BNPL (Buy Now Pay Later) has been in the spotlight in recent years as the spread of the new Covid-19 has led to increased use of e-commerce and increased demand for electronic payments. According to the Yano Research Institute, the size of transactions through post-payment services in Japan is expected to more than double to ¥1.88 trillion by 2024, compared to just ¥882 billion last year.

To find out more about what BNPL is, how it is different from credit cards, why is it increasingly popular in Japan, some of the leading companies offering BNPL services, as well as why people choose a job within BNPL, please click button below. We hope you find it useful.

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Fintech start-ups in Japan: Loans and Personal Asset Management

In the loan and lending sector, there is a lot of interest in the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to screen customers, calculate credit scores, interest rates, and credit limits, to reduce labour costs and improve operational efficiency. In addition to this, services that help match customers and financial institutions with the most suitable loans are gaining momentum in start-ups where it is particularly easy to enter.

In the area of personal wealth management, services that are emerging offer automated AI management and the ability to navigate easily from a smartphone. As the number of users interested in asset building increases, more services start to target users who had never been previously interested in asset building or stock trading. This is an area where huge growths are expected in the near future.  

 

1. MFS(representative service: MOGE)

MFS was founded in 2009 by Akira Nakayamada, who raised approximately ¥330 million in March 2018, and has raised ¥650 million in March 2021. With these funds, the company will expand the development of suggestion functions and AI, as well as ramp up their hiring of engineers. The company's flagship service, MOGE CHECK, which is an online mortgage service is used by around 2,000 people every month and is predicted to have a total of around 50,000 users by end of 2021.

 

2. WealthNavi

Founded in April 2015 by Kazuhisa Shibayama, a former employee of the Ministry of Finance and McKinsey & Company, WealthNavi began offering a personal asset management service using robo-advisors with the aim of building the next generation of financial services infrastructure. WealthNavi focuses mainly on the asset building of the working generation, and if this generation accelerates their asset building to prepare for retirement, the potential market for robo-advisors is thought to be about ¥20 trillion in the next 10 years. WealthNavi has a huge potential to continue growing in the future.

 

3. Gojo & Co.

Gotsune & Co. provides microfinance services to businesses in developing countries. The company oversees and manages the group's business as a holding company through the establishment of new companies or the acquisition of existing companies in developing countries such as India, Cambodia, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. TORANOTEC is one of the leading FinTech start-ups in Japan, and has been providing high quality micro-credit services since 2014, with a grand vision of becoming a "private version of the World Bank".

 

4. TORANOTEC Corporation (representative service: TORANOTEC)

Founded in 2016, TRANOTEC Corporation engages in financial services investment, FinTech development and app management. Its flagship service, Toranoko, enables customers to automatically invest their daily shopping change from ¥5 into long-term diversified assets around the world. By making full use of advanced technology, the company aims to create a world where investment is accessible to everyone.

 

Fintech start-ups in Japan: Accounting and Finance

The accounting and finance sector has been long dominated by non-cloud ERP systems. However in recent years, we’ve seen an increase in IPOs of SaaS companies such as freee and Money Forward. This is an area that is expected to continue to grow due to the recent trend towards DX.

 

1. freee

Founded in 2012, freee develops and operates SaaS cloud services for businesses and sole traders with the aim of creating "a platform where anyone with an idea, passion or skill can grow their business in a strong and smart way". freee's accounting software is currently used by over 800,000 businesses and allows for easy payment processing and automated bookkeeping. freee has raised over ¥6.2 billion in total funding and is highly regarded by leading global investors, including leading Silicon Valley venture capital firms and Singapore's sovereign wealth fund.

 

2. Mikatus (representative service: A-SaaS)

With the vision of "making good tax accountants the norm", Mikatus develops and operates an all-in-one system that simultaneously improves the efficiency of tax, accounting, and payroll services, and provides tax and management support to clients. The recent outbreak of Covid-19 has promoted the introduction of telework in the tax accountant industry and is changing the way they work.

 

Fintech start-ups in Japan: Virtual currency and blockchain

After the NUM leak in January 2018, the number of people trading virtual currencies have decreased dramatically, and the number of companies that are unable to enter the market or liquidate in the process have also increased. But despite the high barriers to entry, it is still possible to trade virtual currencies and we’ve also seen the price of Bitcoin recovering in recent times.

In the field of blockchain, although the number of new blockchain-related companies have declined recently, many existing companies are still growing. This is therefore an area to keep an eye on in the future.

 

1. LayerX

LayerX is a joint venture between Gunosy and AnyPay, established in July 2019 through a MBO to Gunosy's founder Yoshinori Fukushima. It provides blockchain-related technical consulting, develops blockchain services, conducts empirical research, and promotes digital transformation (DX) in various industries including the financial sector, based on blockchain technology. By using blockchain, LayerX can connect SaaS, ERP, core systems and business systems, to digitise the entire workflow.

In May 2020, the company announced that it had raised approximately ¥3 billion in a major fundraising round, which it plans to use to establish an operating company for commercialisation, develop businesses and products for these purposes, and hire for human resources.

 

2. bitFlyer

bitFlyer was founded in 2014 and is one of the largest virtual currency exchanges in Japan. The best thing about bitFlyer is that all fees are free, including account creation and maintenance fees, all exchange currency trading fees, and bitcoin FX trading fees. With a high volume of bitcoin trades and extremely high liquidity, they are highly regarded by their users for making transactions smoother than other virtual currency exchanges, and will continue to be a company to watch in this area.

 

Fintech start-ups in Japan: Personal Financial Management (PFM)

PFM stands for Personal Financial Management and is a service that allows you to manage multiple bank accounts, securities and credit card accounts in one place using an ID linking function. In Japan, "Money Forward ME" has more than 10 million users, and this is currently a rapidly growing area within FinTech.

 

1. Moneytree Corporation (representative service: Moneytree LINK)

Founded in Japan in 2012, Moneytree, Inc. is a financial data platform based on "Moneytree LINK", providing data integration services for companies and asset management services for individuals. In Japan, they aim to build a data platform that is recognised as a standard API in the financial and accounting industry that is trusted by people. MoneyForward is funded by major overseas investment managers including Salesforce.com, SBI Investment, a venture capital firm of regional financial institutions, and Fidelity International.

 

2. MoneyForward

Founded in 2012 by Yosuke Tsuji, MoneyForward's core services include the Money Forward ME personal finance app and the Money Forward Cloud series for businesses. The company joined the Tokyo Stock Exchange Mothers market in 2017. MoneyForward Cloud is a SaaS-based service for businesses that provides real-time visibility into the current state of the company's business and the challenges it faces.

 

3. BearTail (flagship service: Wallet)

BearTail's mission is to "extend the life span of the experience through a time revolution", and they aim to be a company that reduces wasted time and creates richer quality time. Their flagship service, "Dr.Wallet", is a free, fully-automated housekeeping application that allows users to visually and manually input data from receipts taken. They also offer "Dr. Expense Reimbursement" for companies, which enables automatic expense reimbursement via smartphones and has been introduced by more than 300 companies.

 

Fintech start-ups in Japan: Insurance

The insurance sector, also known as InsurTech, has seen an increase in the number of start-ups entering the market in recent years, replacing long-time industry leader Lifenet Insurance. InsurTech enables insurers to streamline their operations, create innovative products and reduce costs.

 

1. JustInCase

JustInCase is a leading provider of smartphone insurance and a P2P service that applies any insurance concerns of the sharing economy. At the time of its launch, JustInCase attracted significant attention as existing major Japanese insurers were also moving to digitise their business in-house. In 2019 it announced it had raised ¥1 billion in funding, which it will use to build infrastructure to strengthen partnerships with large companies, expand recruitment and accelerate new business development.

 

2. Hokan

Hokan was founded in 2017 by Mr. Masatsu Ohana, who was previously engaged in marketing strategy, IT strategy planning, investment management, and PMO mainly for the insurance industry at BayCurrent Consulting Inc. Hokan offers a cloud service that visualises insurance policies and enables sales activities using graphs and data, thereby enabling centralised management from the discovery of potential customers to the conclusion of contracts. They also run a web media site on the know-hows and qualifications of insurance agents, and an informational site on InsurTech in general, as well as a general consultation service to support clients in entering the insurance business.

 

Are you suitable to join a FinTech start-up?

FinTech is a relatively new industry and therefore lacks stability compared to more established industries such as finance and IT. However, it is also an industry that is growing very quickly where many competing ventures are emerging every day. It is a potential area to grow your career in for the long-term.

If you like working in a challenging environment, are curious, have a passion or interest in Fintech, this could be an industry suitable for you.  

While many companies are still looking for mid-career professionals with a strong background in finance and sales, there are also a lot more opportunities for new graduates. If you can come up with innovative ideas, FinTech start-ups could be the perfect place for you to make the most of your skills and start a career in. This is also great for those coming from a non-IT career who wish to make a career switch. If you’re unsure about the FinTech industry and would like to discuss your career in greater lengths, please fill up the form below and a dedicated specialist consultant will be in touch for a confidential discussion.

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