Both services start on Sept. 3 with fund sales available at postal offices throughout the country and CU convenient stores with no fees for small business people
President Kang Seong-ju of Korea Post declares the start of the sale of funds and small payment system at Korea Post at a ceremony on Sept. 3 at Korea Post. (Photos: Korea Post)
Korea Post said it began selling funds and handle small simple payments services with smart phones at 222 postal offices across the country on Sept. 3.
The postal service said it prepared for the sale of the funds by providing training to the employees at the postal service facilities all over the country. The simple payment services are being handled at postal offices and CU convenience stores.
The funds that are handled at the postal services include those that are low risks such as money market funds (MMF) bond-type funds, and mixed-type funds.
All told there are 13 kinds with low risk and thus are considered very safe for the investors.
Korea Post decided to handle simple smartphone payment services as demand for such payment services is rising around the country. It uses QR codes to reduce the costs for small commercial operators.
Small business owners whose annual turnover is less than 500 million won are exempt from the fees for the payment services. To make payments, they have to show the bar code on smartphones at a Korea Post office or CU convenience store so the payments can be made after scanning the bar code.
An app should be installed on the smartphones and an account at Korea Post should be used after identity is verified.
South Korea’s state postal service is planning to buy riskier debt in North America and Europe as well as seeking foreign infrastructure assets and properties as it looks abroad for better returns.
Korea Post plans to increase investment in mezzanine and distressed debt by selecting high-performing asset managers, president Kang Seong-ju said in an interview in Seoul.
The $112 billion fund is also adding infrastructure and real-estate assets abroad and putting more money in hedge funds while reducing investment in stocks, according to Kang.
“We didn’t have to look at such debt last year because stock markets were so good,” Kang said, referring to relatively riskier debt.
Korea Post, which manages savings deposits and sells insurance at its mail offices, joins other conservative institutional investors in Asia increasingly wading into riskier alternative assets as they grapple with low interest rates and lackluster equity returns.
While Korea Post’s allocation to those assets is still small, the move means it must manage risks posed by lower liquidity and less publicly available information on such investments.
Korea Post has put $760 million in mezzanine and distressed debt, according to Kang. The fund has also invested about $600 million in U.S. collateralized loan obligations though it doesn’t put money in equity tranches due to the higher risk.
CLOs pool high-yield, high-risk loans and slice them into securities of varying risk and return.
Kang said he also met with Macquarie Group recently in Australia to boost infrastructure investments. For overseas real estate, the fund is looking to diversify its assets into logistics facilities in the U.S. and Europe.
While Korea Post is reducing equities, the fund still favors some stocks in developed markets including the U.S. and dividend stocks while shunning emerging-market shares, Kang said.
The fund also plans to boost investment in hedge funds by 300 billion won to 1.6 trillion won by end-2019, he said.
“Some people say it’s time to buy some beaten-down stocks in emerging markets, such as Vietnam equities, but we are still cautious about emerging markets due to lingering uncertainties.”
A cinema actor Hwang Jeong-min holds an ad for Korea Post’s small payment services kicked at postal offices and C.U convenience stores around the country from Sept. 3.