Japanese financial conglomerate SBI Holdings has set its stall out as a central player in the fintech ecosystem, promising to aggressively adopt new technology and build a network of startups through a $275 million venture fund.
The company has decided that embracing fintech, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and big data will give it a significant competitive boost, differentiating it from its rivals in the financial services world.
Part of the strategy is the creation of a venture fund that will invest in fintech firms. SBI says that it aims to get the fund up to 30 billion yen (around $275 million) through investors such as regional banks and credit unions. So far about 20 companies, including the Bank of Yokohama, have put money in.
The fund has already made investments in Bitcoin exchanges bitFlyer and Kraken, as well as Ripple, payments firm Omise, big data outfit GiXo and Israeli IoT specialist Argus Cyber Security.
SBI says that it also wants to bring all of the firms it invests in together as part of a consortium that would work to establish fintech-related technology and services developed in Japan but used around the world. These would be promoted overseas through a series of local partners, such as Moneygram in the US, Earthport in the UK and Bank of Communications in China.
The company is also vowing to put new technology to use in its own business. It has joined the R3 blockchain consortium, while its securities division has taken part in a distributed ledger pilot with the Japan Exchange, IBM and NRI. In addition, the group's online bank is also working with NRI to use blockchain tech for things such as bank account transactions and balance enquiries.
Yet another distributed ledger partnership sees SBI working with Ripple to build an international remittance system platform in Asia.
Meanwhile, the conglomerate has identified small and medium-sized business as prime candidates for a fintech makeover. It has begun developing an accounting transaction-based loan business for SMEs that uses cloud technology and is also pondering the development of a new credit line model that uses big data analysis and even AI.