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Women leaders in South Korea’s banking

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Wang Mi-hwa is named as head of the Shinhan Financial Group’s wealth management unit for this year on December 21. SHINHAN BANK/THE KOREA HERALD

Women leaders in South Korea’s banking

The thick glass ceiling in the finance industry of South Korea got a few more cracks in the last month, with the latest reshuffles in the country’s leading banking and securities brokerage companies having nominated women leaders to the top posts.

The nomination of Park Jeong-rim as the co-CEO of KB Securities on December 19 marked another leap forward, as she is set to become the first female CEO of a brokerage firm in Korea. Her nomination awaits approval in the upcoming general shareholders’ meeting and board of directors’ meeting. KB Securities is Korea’s third-largest securities brokerage firm by net asset.

Park has also been named as deputy president of KB Financial Group, KB Securities’ financial holding company, to head its capital market business unit.

Her background in both banking and securities firms with specialty in wealth management are said to bode well for the group-wide aim to create some 20 more branches dedicated to one-stop private banking for retail banking services, investment management and brokerage service.

As of end-December, KB Financial Group operates 64 such branches across the nation.

Park has spearheaded the wealth management business of the group since last year. She has led related units as a senior executive vice-president of KB Kookmin Bank and deputy president of both KB Financial Group and KB Securities.

Park started her career in financial industry in 1986 at the Seoul branch of Chase Manhattan Bank, a precursor to JPMorgan Chase Bank. Before joining KB Kookmin Bank in 2004, she dealt with asset management at Chohung Bank, which was later acquired by Shinhan Bank and Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance.

Within KB Financial Group, Park is set to become the second woman to take a CEO post at the group, following Kim Hae-kyung of KB Credit Information.

The year-end reshuffles in major banking groups also invited more female executives.

In Shinhan Financial Group, Wang Mi-hwa was named as head of the group’s wealth management unit, taking charge of the wealth management business of the group’s bank and brokerage. Wang is also expected to double as executive vice-president of Shinhan Bank.

Cho Kyoung-sun was named as Shinhan Bank’s executive vice-president in charge of its sales channel planning group. Before Wang and Cho, Shinhan Bank’s board of directors had no female executives this year.

KB Kookmin Bank has also named two new female executives for the New Year. Cho Soon-ok would become compliance officer and managing director of the bank, while Kim Chong-ran would lead the bank’s trust division. The tenure of the only female executive, KB Securities’ CEO nominee Park, has expired on Monday.

The news came amid lack of representation of women in leadership and executive level of the industry, despite over half of its rank-and-file employees being women.

As of 2017, just four per cent of financial sector executives were women, according to data compiled by ruling Democratic Party of Korea representative Je Youn-kyung. Commercial banks in Korea had 18 women among their 269 executives. This comes in contrast to 58 per cent of some 58,000 bank tellers being women.

Both brokerage firms and asset management firms in Korea had 3.0 per cent of female executives each, while 3.9 per cent of executives in financial holding companies were women. The data on rank-and-file staff of those firms were unavailable.

The first woman leader in Korea’s financial sector, meanwhile, is Lee Eo-ryong, wife of late chairman of Daishin Financial Group Yang Hye-moon. She succeeded the chair post immediately after Yang died in 2004. In 2013, Kwon Seon-joo became the first woman to become a CEO in the banking industry, at the state-led Industrial Bank of Korea. THE KOREA HERALD/ANN

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