FinTechs belonging to this category offer advisory and broking services for investments usually via an internet platform.
Robo advisory services usually offer an investment proposition following a series of questions concerning the personal financial background and the risk-bearing capacity of the user. Sometimes the respective platform also enables the user to directly execute the proposed investment.
Auto-trading concerns all services which automatically trade on behalf of the customer according to his or her specifications.
Apart from that some FinTechs collect and offer merely or as an ancillary service market information or operate comparison portals to increase the transparency of the capital markets and to help the investor with his decision-making.
There are also FinTech-advertising-services which advertise various financial services or products.
Attitude of the country towards modern financial advisory and broking services
The robo-advisor market has developed swiftly thanks to the launch of the robo-advisor test bed initiative in 2016 and the easing of minimum capital requirements for mobile discretionary investment services in 2019. We anticipate that the introduction of MyData, which gives individuals the ability to manage personal financial data from different financial institutions on one platform, will further spur the robust growth in the robo-advisor market.
On the other hand, recently, the Financial Consumer Protection Act was enacted to protect financial consumers, and financial regulators have taken the stance that services such as the provision of information on financial products or recommendation of customized financial products on online platforms may qualify as brokerage rather than advertisement or investment advice. As a result, major platform providers have responded by suspending customized recommendation services and/or limiting other related services.
Obligations and requirements to provide financial advisory and broking services, or ancillary services described above
The FISCMA defines “investment advisory business” as the business of providing advice on the value of financial investment instruments and other investable assets or on the investment decisions of the client. Thus, where one provides advice so that clients can make investment decisions directly based on such advice, one is engaging in an investment advisory business, which requires registration with the FSC. The registration eligibility requirements are similar to those of the discretionary investment business license, and the minimum capital required is KRW 250 million.
Where the service provider manages investment assets by making investment decisions (partially or wholly) on behalf of clients, such services will qualify as a discretionary investment business, and such service provider will have to register and meet the requirements described in Section b above. We note that the applicable minimum capital requirement is higher than that of an investment advisory business. In the past, mobile discretionary investment businesses were required to maintain a minimum capital of KRW 4 billion, but this requirement was replaced in 2019 with the lower KRW 1.5 requirement applicable to other discretionary investment service providers in an effort to promote robo-advisors.
In sum, to operate a robo-advisor service or automatic trading system, the service provider will have to register as either a discretionary investment business or investment advisory business depending on whether the investor makes its own investment decisions directly. For reference, Fint, one of Korea’s leading robo-advisor companies, conducts its business under a discretionary investment structure, taking care of the entire investment process, from deposits and withdrawals to the composition and management of global ETF portfolios tailored to the customers’ investment preferences. In contrast, AIM operates under an investment advisory model, providing a customized asset portfolio and advice from investment experts when customers input their financial situation and asset management goals.
Lastly, if one provides advice concerning investment judgments with respect to financial investment instruments or the value of financial investment instruments using periodicals published to be viewed by an unspecified number of people, email, etc., one will be considered as engaging in a "quasi-investment advisory business". In this case, one must file disclose that it is engaging in such business by filing a report with the FSC.
Additional comments regarding the legal situation for financial advisory and broking services, or adjacent services or what FinTech’s must be aware of in this business area
Those authorized to provide investment advisory services, discretionary investment services or quasi-investment advisory services are subject to certain business conduct regulations under the FISCMA.
Furthermore, because the financial authorities interpret the provision of information on financial products and product comparisons or recommendations as brokerage (as mentioned in Section 1.c.i. above), in order for a platform to broker financial investment products such as funds, it must be registered as an “investment solicitor” under the FISCMA. However, only individuals can register as investment solicitors. Registration as an insurance agency is also required to broker insurance products, but electronic financial service providers (as defined in Section 1.a.) cannot register as insurance agencies under the Enforcement Decree of the Insurance Business Act. In light of these restrictions, the provision of online/mobile financial advisory services is rather limited under the current system.
Lastly, if the relevant service is determined to be advertising rather than brokerage, then regulations relating to advertisement must be complied with.
Market size for financial advisory and broking services as well as adjacent services and biggest companies in this business area
According to materials on the status of the robo-advisor test bed, as of the end of June 2021, there were 379,477 users of robo-advisor services, and the total amount of assets under management was KRW 1.75 trillion. Although this is not a large market yet, the market size is swiftly growing and expected to reach KRW 30 trillion in 2025.
The domestic robo-advisor market is dominated by FinTech firms, with Fint, Fount and AIM being representative examples.
Additional comments regarding the economic situation for financial advisory and broking services as well as adjacent services or what FinTech’s must be aware of in this business area
As mentioned in Section 1.c., both FinTech companies and financial companies are working to enter the robo-advisor market, and there are many companies currently providing these services. However, as mentioned in Section 1.c.vi., we expect the market size to grow tremendously. While the current role of robo-advisors can be characterized as automatic, optimal asset allocation based on investor tendencies, we expect robo-advisor services to extend to a broad range of services such as retirement planning and income and expense management.