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KEB Hana Bank’s new CEO pledges digitalization, globalization as core mission

KEB Hana Bank’s newly appointed CEO Ji Sung-kyoo on Thursday pledged to step up efforts to transform the South Korean commercial bank into a data-driven company backed by digitalization, while ramping up its global business push to widen its sources of income beyond the domestic market.

“To become a trusted global bank, we want to go forward embracing digitalization as our left wing and globalization as our right wing,” Ji said in his inaugural press conference held at KEB Hana Bank’s headquarters in Seoul.

“Our goal is not to adopt a ‘digital touch’ while retaining our traditional banking business, but to transform ourselves from a commercial bank to a data company from the core. We believe this is a path that separates our ‘digitalization’ strategy from that of other banks or companies.”

KEB Hana Bank’s new CEO, Ji Sung-kyoo, speaks during his inaugural press conference in Seoul on Thursday. (Yonhap)
KEB Hana Bank’s new CEO, Ji Sung-kyoo, speaks during his inaugural press conference in Seoul on Thursday. (Yonhap)

The digital shift has already begun, according to Ji. KEB Hana Bank has set out to build a specialized workforce with expertise in digital technologies, including artificial intelligence, big data and blockchain.

As for business, KEB Hana Bank is launching the blockchain-powered “Global Loyalty Network” system in Taiwan starting next month, which lets its customers use digital cash in multiple countries via third-party partnerships. Hana expects this type of cross-border system will bring great benefit to its customers at home and abroad.

Stressing the importance of technology convergence, Ji also pledged to forge more partnerships with competitive non-banking entities similar to the one it possesses with mobile messaging firm Line. The two have partnered to establish Line Bank, a digital bank, in Indonesia, marking a Korean bank’s first foray into the retail banking business in an overseas location.

Global expansion is another pressing task for Ji, who stressed the need to look beyond Korea for new growth. The new chief pledged to continue nurturing the bank’s established business operations in China and Indonesia while paving new growth in Southeast Asia. Target countries includes ASEAN member states, including Vietnam, the Philippines and Cambodia, as well as India.

“We have a fairly mature business in China and Indonesia already. Throughout this year and next year, we’re going to be seeing some of those efforts come to fruition. At the same time, ‘Southeast Asia’ is inevitably our next destination, with India, the ‘next China’ also deemed an important market.

The remarks come after Ji, formerly the vice president of global business, was voted into his new post during KEB Hana Bank’s annual general meeting of shareholders on Thursday. He replaces the bank’s previous CEO Ham Young-joo, who will retain his post as an executive vice president of Hana Financial Group, the bank’s parent company.

Looking ahead, there are particularly high expectations that Ji, an expert in China business operations, will leverage his experience to successfully spearhead the bank’s foray into new markets.

Building a stronger global presence is at the top of the agenda for Hana Financial, as its Chairman Kim Jeong-tae has made a pledge to raise the group’s portion of profits raised abroad to 40 percent by 2025.

As of 2018, KEB Hana Bank’s net profit from its global business took up less than 14 percent of the bank’s total, though the absolute amount of overseas-derived net profit had increased 20 percent on-year, according to the bank.

Ji began working in the banking industry from 1989 as an employee at Hanil Bank, now merged into today’s Woori Bank. He joined KEB Hana Bank in 1991, and has since spent 17 years building the bank’s business across Hong Kong and China.

An expert in China business affairs, Ji served as CEO of KEB Hana Bank China Co. from 2014-2018, and is currently serving as executive vice president and head of the global business unit at KEB Hana Bank.

Other major tasks for Ji include the smooth integration of employees from Korea Exchange Bank that came under Hana Bank after the two banks’ merger in 2015, creating today’s KEB Hana Bank. From this year, the two banks’ human resources affairs, including wages and employee benefits, were merged.

Meanwhile, Hana Financial Group, the banking-finance group with KEB Hana Bank at the center, is slated to hold an annual general meeting on Friday. Outside directors and auditors will be put up for a vote. Dividend payouts and director wages are also key items on the agenda.

By Sohn Ji-young (