In Seoul’s Apgujeong in Gangnam-gu, home to many of Korea’s rich families, an elegant seven-story building draws the gaze of passersby. The eye-catching building is established by KB Financial Group to offer hyperpersonalized financial services to the wealthiest people in the country.
This place goes well beyond what people usually expect of commercial banks.
Instead of having to grab a queue ticket, customers are served with a cup of coffee a barista stationed in the building just brewed. Patrons are surrounded by multibillion-won art pieces, hanging chandeliers and humanities books you can’t get from ordinary bookshops.
KB Gold&Wise The First -- the Apgujeong-dong branch -- is the flagship and premium version of KB’s private banking brand KB Gold&Wise, which marked its 20th anniversary.
Pursuing a “one-stop wealth management center” that serves ultrahigh net worth individuals, the branch offers customers an experience akin to visiting a gallery or private library.
On the second floor, rare and collectible books in arts, culture and humanities are on display, surrounded by green plants. Scents from diffusers and perfumes customized for the space fill the air.
From the third to the seventh floor, 15 consultation rooms are set up for customers, in which discussions can be held discreetly. Two consultation rooms on the seventh floor resemble suite rooms of high-end hotels, equipped with a powder room, balcony and chandelier lighting. A 3 billion won ($2.3 million) painting by abstract painter Kim Whan-ki hangs in the room.
Luxurious interior aside, a trusts specialist, tax accountant, lawyer, real estate expert and personal banker team up as a group for a highly personalized service.
“We have some 40 top-class experts here,” said Hwang Sun-a, the head of the premium branch.
Superrich parents who want a smooth transition of their business and asset distribution to their descendants often visit the center.
“Our main customers are top executives of large companies and their family members,” Hwang said. “Many family-owned businesses here are in the power transition period to the next generation, requiring superrich families to think about comprehensive wealth management consulting, not just a single financial product.”
Young startup entrepreneurs are another group of customers, Hwang added.
Although the popularity of online banking has led commercial banks to scale down their in-person services and shut down branches, local lenders see the growth potential of hyperpersonal services for superrich wealth management, similar to what foreign banking groups like UBS and Credit Suisse offer.
“Fostering wealth management business for ultrahigh net worth individuals and the development of digital platforms are becoming two key pillars of local lenders,” Hwang said.
The number of "wealthy people" stood at 424,000 as of the end of 2021, up 19.7 percent from two years earlier, according to the Korea Wealth Report 2022, released by KB Financial Group this month.
KB defines wealthy people as those with financial assets of more than 1 billion won. The group has combined financial assets of 2,883 trillion won, which accounts for 58.5 percent of Korean households' total financial assets.
The center provides customers with financial services that banks and securities firms offer altogether, from investment in private equity funds and pre-initial public offerings to securities investment trust and equity-linked securities.
“In order to provide comprehensive asset management services to our customers, we have been concentrating all our group-level capabilities to open this center,” Yoon Jong-kyu, chairman of KB Financial Group, said when the lender launched the center in September.