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Banking groups add momentum to digital financing amid coronavirus fallout

Woori Financial Group Chairman Son Tae-seung (center, rear row) poses for a photo with executives and employees after celebrating the launch of a digital innovation committee at its headquarters in Seoul on March 15.(Woori Financial Group)
Woori Financial Group Chairman Son Tae-seung (center, rear row) poses for a photo with executives and employees after celebrating the launch of a digital innovation committee at its headquarters in Seoul on March 15.(Woori Financial Group)


Reacting to the untact market trend triggered by the COVID-19 outbreak, South Korea’s financial groups are scrambling to gain an upper hand in digital financing.

Untact, or non-face-to-face, has become a new standard in the local financial industry as consumers are increasingly turning to contactless financial services via smartphones amid fears of the ongoing COVID-19 or other plausible contagious diseases in the future.

While the number of visitors to local bank branches decreased by nearly 40 percent in February from a year earlier, online cash transfers rose by 13.4 percent during the same period, industry sources said. 

Woori Financial Group, under the leadership of Chairman Sohn Tae-seung, was the pioneer in this responsive move.

Under the new management slogan “Digital First, Change Everything” for the post-coronavirus era, Woori Financial launched a digital innovation committee, a control tower led directly by Chairman Sohn and Woori Bank President Kwon Kwang-seok, officials said Sunday. 

“The untact trend has now grown beyond just a temporary trend and become a new normal. Now is the golden time for digital innovation in the finance sector,” said the Woori chief.

The committee will push ahead with various digital innovation projects -- ranging from the acquisition of fintech companies and digital collaboration with other industries. It also established the so-called “BLUE Team” within the group, whereby young and innovative employees create new strategies in line with changing digital trends.

Shinhan Financial Group also recently held a lengthy debate on digital transformation under Chairman Cho Yong-byoung and 200 employees from its subsidiaries, adding weight to its digital drive.

Hana Financial group is currently working on setting up a digital insurance platform through its newly-acquired affiliate, The-K NON-Life Insurance.

JB Financial Group operates a digital community to lift its digital capabilities to better serve consumers in the post-coronavirus period. (JB Financial Group)
JB Financial Group operates a digital community to lift its digital capabilities to better serve consumers in the post-coronavirus period. (JB Financial Group)

Among regional financial institutions, JB Financial Group -- the holding group of Jeonbuk and Kwangju banks -- has launched Digital Community, a study group for leader-level employees to analyze digital financial ecosystems worldwide, officials said.

By Choi Jae-hee (cjh@heraldcorp.com)
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