Line, the messaging app with nearly 500 million registered users worldwide, is starting a new service in its home base of Japan. Nikkei is reporting that the company intends to help customers track their personal finances by spring 2015.
If a user adds his or her bank’s official account to the friend list and verifies a bank account, they will receive notices from that bank when money is deposited or withdrawn. Users will also be able to confirm the current amount of cash in the account at any given time.
At a time when cyber security is a point of concern for consumers, Line has decided to rely on technical support firm NTT Data. Though better known as a subsidiary of NTT, Japan’s largest telco, NTT Data is the country’s market leader in financial IT support services.
Considering Line’s recent troubles with data security, consumers will have to think carefully about putting their banking information into the app. If the firm can win customer trust, then it will successfully open up a new front in its ongoing battle to expand beyond messaging. Already, it has thrown down the gauntlet with ecommerce. A move into personal finance will similarly bring Line face-to-face with current leaders in Japanese financial tech – a niche area dubbed “fintech”.
Fintech is strong in Japan’s startup community. Two leaders are Freee and MoneyForward, companies whose software is used by millions of Japanese individuals and small businesses for finance management. Tech in Asia spoke to both Daisuke Sasaki, CEO of Freee, and Yosuke Tsuji, CEO of MoneyForward, both of whom welcomed Line’s entrance into their field.
“I think Line is approaching from its communication [business] in order to grow its other services,” says Tsuji. “But when services like Line, which support so many people, start to provide money-related services, it just increases everyone’s awareness about money.”
Sasaki was similarly optimistic. “When it comes to online banking platforms, NTT Data has huge market share in Japan. If NTT Data is serious about supporting more of this kind of integration, there will be a huge opportunity for the fintech industry in Japan […] [It] could be the sunrise of a new fintech era here in Japan.”