Look Overseas for Growth

New Chairman Park B.W. of Federation of Banks calls on members to go abroad for increased profits

Chairman Park Byung-won of the Federation of Banks (FOB) said he will faithfully strive for the development of member banks as a spokesman for the banking industry.
During his inaugural ceremony on Nov. 30 at the Bankers' Hall in Myeong-dong, downtown Seoul, he urged the banking community to think of a long-term strategy to gain social support and understanding, not just to maximize the short-term interest of expanding profits. The entire society, he explained, should be concerned about what the banking industry can do to help the nation's progress.
The new FOB chairman said incomplete sales of financial products are one of the matters related to the protection of financial consumers. "These matters should be taken care of by those of us in the industry before they are seen outside the industry," he said.
Park also pointed out the industry's lack of communication with its customers, saying that most criticisms of the industry stem from a shortage of information, and so it is not a matter who is to get the blame. The FOB should be at the forefront to expand the availability of information on the banking industry to smooth out the social criticism of the industry due to misunderstanding caused by the lack of information.
He said the creation of jobs will be the top priority for his management of the FOB, citing that the industry's new hiring in the past decade fell short of the expectations. "I will go full steam ahead to tend to matters that create new jobs in the banking industry," the new chairman said.
He also said banks should take a look at expanding operations abroad for increased income, as the domestic financial market is overcrowded with no room for dynamic growth. The global financial crisis is still going on and could provide good opportunities for Korean banks to launch or expand their operations overseas. He will strive to expand the FOB's presence overseas to support the Korean banks operating outside of the country. "We need to expand the banks' growth and capacities for not only themselves, but also to help support the national economy and industry," he said.
The bureaucrat who also was chairman of the Woori Financial Group told reporters following his selection as head of the bankers association at the federation's general conference held at the Bankers' Hall in Myeong-dong, downtown Seoul, on Nov. 29.
The new chairman, 59, said he should not express his private opinions, but be faithful to his duty as head of the federation to represent the interest of member banks, meaning he will convey the opinions of the financial circles to financial authorities as positively as he can.
Asked to comment on calls for banks' public interest, social responsibility and what he would do, he said they should make social contributions, noting that even foreign banks have been holding activities to benefit society, he said.
The new FOB chairman said he will have many occasions to meet with the heads of the four major financial groups and expects to hear a lot from those top financial men on ways to further promote the development of banks.
Park is a graduate of the Seoul National University Law College and started his government career by working for the now-defunct Economic Planning Board (EPB) as a staff member and rose to be the vice minister of the Ministry of Strategy and Finance, his last government post. He also was a senior economic advisor to President Lee Myung-bak from June 2008 to January 2009.
Park will work as a go-between for the financial authorities and the banks in his role as head of the FOB.
He took over the new position at an extremely difficult time with the global economy in very tough conditions with a number of EU member countries including Greece and Italy on the verge of default.
Domestically, household debts have been worsening and banks have been hit by increasing defaults on their project financings for major construction projects.
Savings banks with outstanding project financing loans have restructured their operations on orders from the financial authorities and it could affect large banks as a number of large financial groups have acquired a number of those troubled savings banks.
Now, banks have to rely on new chairman Park as they have to expand their profits by sustaining their normal growth and upgrade their competitive edge, and to do that they have to lobby both the government and the legislature at the same time.
Banks appear to have high hopes on the new head of the FOB, believing that he could be the right person to speak up for them at these difficult times. nw

Chairman Park Byung-won of the Federation of Banks.
Photo on courtesy of FOB

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