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FSS to ease rules for foreign financial firms

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Published : 2014-03-04 19:48
Updated : 2014-03-04 21:55

Seeking partnerships in implementing the government’s slogan of “creative economy,” the nation’s financial regulator pledged to eliminate regulatory obstacles for foreign financial companies operating in Korea.

“We will work to identify and remove even invisible barriers that hinder the creative and productive activities of foreign financial companies,” Financial Supervisory Service Gov. Choi Soo-hyun said in a communication forum with foreign financial firms on Tuesday.

His remark came at the FSS’ sixth annual session, titled “FSS SPEAKS,” which was held at Lotte Hotel Seoul for foreign financial companies doing business here.
Choi Soo-hyun, governor of the Financial Supervisory Service, delivers his keynote speech at the FSS’ annual forum in Seoul, aimed at enhancing communication with financial institutions in Korea. (FSS)

Since its launch in 2009, shortly after the 2008 global financial crisis, the FSS SPEAKS session has spawned a number of new systems based on the feedback of foreign financial operators here, according to the FSS.

A representative example is the prior consultation system, which allows foreign financial institutions to offer their opinions before a finance-related act is legislated or revised.

“2014 will be a watershed point, deciding whether Korea’s financial sector may restore trust and leap to a world-class level,” Choi said, stressing the pivotal role of global financial companies in Korea.

He also thanked foreign financial companies for creating high-quality jobs and passing down advanced financing techniques, thus contributing to Korea’s economic development over past years.

But he admitted that the prolonged trend of low interest rates and slow growth is weighing down foreign financial companies and their business performance.

“Despite such difficulties, Korea’s relatively steady economy and its new financial demands, triggered by the rising pension funds, will offer a new business opportunity for global financial units operating here,” Choi added.

The FSS chief’s deregulation pledges for foreign financial companies were largely appreciated by the participants.

“In recent years, economic growth has been fueled by institutions which face less financial regulations,” said Stephen Bird, CEO of Citi Asia Pacific.

“The greatest challenge, not only for Korea but for other countries as well, is to achieve the balance between regulation and growth.”

Joris Dierckx, country head of BNP Paribas, agreed that the role of foreign banks is no longer just about importing capital or financial systems, but more about looking for innovation opportunities in the local market.

The regulator, nevertheless, said that stronger legal and regulatory frameworks are needed to better protect the personal information of financial customers, referring to the aftermath of a recent massive data leak.

The scandal not only brought a three-month suspension penalty upon the three responsible credit card companies ― KB Kookmin, NH NongHyup and Lotte ― but also triggered talks over a revision of personal information bills.

While pledging to improve the personal information management system, Choi also asked foreign financial firms to strengthen internal controls in managing customer assets.

“In order to optimize financial supervisory efficiency, we will encourage individual firms to reinforce their internal auditing system, while we focus more on weighty cases of regulation breaches,” said Kwon In-won, planning and management deputy governor of the FSS.

By Bae Hyun-jung (tellme@heraldcorp.com)

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