Shinhan Bank’s new CEO pledges two-track globalization strategy

By Sohn Ji-young
  • Published : Mar 26, 2019 - 17:02
  • Updated : Apr 28, 2019 - 14:46

Shinhan Bank’s newly appointed CEO Jin Ok-dong on Tuesday pledged a two-track strategy for the bank’s global push, calling for the formation of strong business assets in key currency markets such as the US and Japan while citing plans to build a locally competitive presence in emerging markets.

“I believe in a two-track strategy for the bank’s global expansion,” Jin said in his inaugural press conference at Shinhan Bank’s headquarters in Seoul.

“One track is building ‘smart (business) channels’ in key currency markets that can offset currency risks in South Korea. The second track is to establish operations that can compete head-to-head with the local banks in emerging markets,” he said.

Shinhan Bank`s new CEO Jin Ok-dong waves the bank`s flag during his inauguration ceremony held at the bank`s headquarters in Seoul, Tuesday (Shinhan Bank)

According to Jin, Shinhan Bank must procure “smart business channels” in key currency markets including the US and Japan that can offset Korea’s currency fluctuation risks. Possessing strong assets abroad could then provide sufficient foreign capital to its Korean operations when needed.

The diagnosis stems from Jin’s own experiences. He recalled how the plunging value of the won amid past global financial crises resulted in major interest payback burdens that forced many Korean banks to go bankrupt.

Only banks with assets abroad that could be liquidated at a higher value could pull in enough capital to keep themselves afloat. That was the case for Shinhan Bank during the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, when it procured funds by selling off its majority stake in the three-branch Marine National Bank in California at a premium, and averted a merger.

Given this, Jin said the bank’s strategy in global currency markets should be to build a business that can offset Korea’s currency fluctuation risks and geopolitical instability.

As for emerging markets in Southeast Asia, Jin stressed a selective approach that concentrates the bank’s limited resources on high-potential markets. For Shinhan, that means Vietnam -- a big market where the bank has been seeing meaningful growth.

“We’re beyond the point of competing with how many more branches a bank has in foreign countries. The key is to concentrate investment in high-potential markets and become a leading bank there by a large margin,” Jin said.

In line with this approach, Shinhan Bank plans to make bold investments into Vietnam, with the goal of forming a bank that can go shoulder-to-shoulder with local Vietnamese banks in terms of structure, size and operations.

While Vietnam is Shinhan Bank’s initial focus, Cambodia and Myanmar are also emerging markets of interest, according to Jin.

Shinhan Bank’s new CEO Jin Ok-dong attends a news conference in Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

Looking ahead, digitalization is another pressing task for the Korean bank on top of globalization. The CEO portended an all-out “digital transformation,” starting with changes to the hiring process.

Shinhan Bank is hoping to hire more information technology experts and dispatch them to the bank’s various business departments so that digital changes can be made faster and more efficiently, he said.

The remarks came after Jin, formerly a vice president at Shinhan Financial Group, was appointed to his new post at the annual shareholders meeting held in Seoul on Tuesday.

He replaces the bank’s outgoing CEO Wi Sung-ho, who is scheduled to step down and become an adviser at the bank. Wi was not assigned a new executive role at Shinhan Financial.

There are high expectations that Jin, a Japan market expert, will leverage his overseas experience to successfully spearhead the bank’s global business operations and contribute to Shinhan Financial’s goal of raising its global-derived net profit to 20 percent of the total.

Jin, 58, began his career in the banking industry in 1980 as an employee of the Industrial Bank of Korea. He joined Shinhan Bank in 1986, and has since spent much of the time building the bank’s business in Japan.

His career in Japan began when he was dispatched to Shinhan Bank’s Osaka branch from 1997 to 2002, working as a leader in the credit evaluation and capital department.

In 2004, Jin briefly left Shinhan Bank to found SH Capital. In 2008, he was rehired by Shinhan to lead efforts to establish Shinhan Bank Japan, which is one of only two foreign banks that hold an operational license in Japan.

Jin was named vice president of Shinhan Bank Japan in 2016. For his achievements at SBJ, he was named vice president of Shinhan Bank and eventually vice president of operations at Shinhan Financial in 2017.

By Sohn Ji-young (