Rakuten Card, Rakuten Bank, Rakuten Pay, Rakuten Life Insurance – Rakuten’s agile, innovative fintech companies have already cemented their positions as major players in the domestic financial landscape. Now they’re beginning to make inroads outside Japan. Since 2015, Rakuten Securities has taken major steps to expand in APAC, offering low-cost, user-friendly services to customers across the region.

The company was originally founded as DLJdirect SFG Securities back in 1999 – just in time to take advantage of a wave of deregulation in Japan’s brokerage commission practices that had commenced the year before. That deregulation made equity trading significantly more accessible for the general population and prompted a then primarily analog industry to shift almost entirely online in the space of just a few years. DLJdirect SFG Securities was able to take advantage of its cutting-edge online trading platform to offer customers new low commissions.

In 2003, the company joined the Rakuten family and a year later it was renamed Rakuten Securities. Since then, it has continued to keep the industry on its toes – expanding into new trading areas such as forex, developing robo-advisors, implementing blockchain security systems and even developing a stocks monitoring app for the Apple Watch. Still, with financial regulations varying significantly from country to country, most of those innovations had been focused on Japan. In 2015, that changed.

Rakuten Securities President Yuji Kusunoki (second from the left) on stage with other panelists at the SCxSC Digital Finance Conference 2017 in Malaysia.

Rakuten Securities President Yuji Kusunoki (second from the left) on stage with other panelists at the SCxSC Digital Finance Conference 2017 in Malaysia.

The company’s first move abroad began with Hong Kong. In September 2015, Rakuten Securities acquired Hong Kong forex innovator FXCM Asia (now Rakuten Securities HK), combining the expertise of one of Asia’s leading forex brokers with Rakuten Securities’ more than 15 years of online trading experience.

The following year it was Australia’s turn: In August 2016, Rakuten Securities expanded its global forex coverage even further across the region with the acquisition of Australia-based “FXAsia Pty Ltd” (now Rakuten Securities Australia).

Just two months later, Rakuten Securities received approval to form a joint venture with Malaysia’s Kenanga Investment Bank, launching the country’s first-ever completely online equities brokerage platform Rakuten Trade in May 2017.

The strategies across the four countries share the same fundamental principles: highly competitive rates and excellent local customer service.

“When we go into new markets, we always implement our best practices,” explains Rakuten Securities President Yuji Kusunoki. “We identify markets with high potential and provide customers with low commissions and a high-tech, user-friendly platform.”

Kusunoki’s strategy is clearly a winner: “Rakuten Securities is now in the number two position in the online brokerage business in Japan,” he says. The company was also recently named the world’s third largest forex trading broker, achieving a trading volume of US$269.4 billion in the final quarter of 2016 – and it’s showing no signs of slowing down. “We are focusing on identifying more potential markets in the Asia-Oceania region where we can make the most of our industry expertise,” Kusunoki says.

With an exploding online population and a booming regional economy, Asia is proving to be the perfect environment for the next stage of Rakuten Securities’ growth.