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Finance

UK's Revolut launches digital banking app in Japan

Asia expansion comes despite dent in tourism and business travel

Revolut launched its digital banking app in Japan on Tuesday.

TOKYO -- U.K.-based Revolut, one of Europe's most valuable startups, on Tuesday launched its digital banking app in Japan, intensifying a battle for business among fintech rivals.

The entrance is Revolut's first in a non-English speaking market. The company, which offers banking services on a mobile app, will initially roll out a limited number of functions in Japan, including international transfers and managing money in 23 currencies. Registered users will also receive a Revolut-branded Visa debit card.

While demand in Japan for tourism and business travel has evaporated due to COVID-19, Revolut said thousands of expatriates living in the country have already signed up. Over time, it wants to attract Japanese users and generate revenue through monthly subscription plans. It plans to add reward programs and other functions to boost its appeal.

"Foreign finance apps are specialized, but Revolut will offer them all in one app," said Haegwan Kim, head of growth at the Japanese unit.

Revolut said it has 13 million users globally. It operates in the U.S. as well as Australia and Singapore in Asia.

While the pandemic has hit consumer spending hard, growing demand for online services has drawn investor interest in the financial technology sector. Revolut raised $80 million in July, giving the company a valuation of $5.5 billion.

The expansion into Japan comes as the government steps up efforts to upgrade its financial sector with digital technology, including a planned overhaul of its legacy interbank transfer system. Japanese still rely heavily on cash and ATMs, even though mobile apps have become mainstream in China.

But Revolut is also entering a crowded market where local digital payment companies, such as SoftBank Group-backed PayPay, are spending aggressively on promotions. A string of startups have already exited the market, either by shutting down services or being sold to larger players.

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