FINANCE

Standard Chartered CEO says S. Korea has potential to be Asia’s financial hub

By Jung Min-kyung
  • Published : Sept 24, 2020 - 18:06
  • Updated : Sept 24, 2020 - 18:14

Financial Services Commission Chairman Eun Sung-soo talks with Standard Chartered Group CEO Bill Winters at the government complex in Seoul on Thursday. Winters arrived in Korea on Aug. 30 for a monthlong stay to explore the nation’s financial technology industry. (FSC)
London-based Standard Chartered Group CEO Bill Winters said South Korea has the potential to rise as Asia’s key financial hub in a meeting with the head of the financial regulator here, the lender’s Korean subsidiary said Thursday.

“(Financial Services Commission Chairman Eun Sung-soo and Winters) agreed on the potential of Seoul as Asia’s financial hub given the size of the Korean economy and Korea’s presence in global trade,” Standard Chartered Bank Korea said in a statement.

Eun’s meeting with Winters on Thursday came near the end of the head of the global banking group’s monthlong stay in Asia’s fourth-largest economy. Winters explored Korea’s financial industry in recent weeks, meeting with chiefs of some of the fastest-growing fintech firms including Kakao Bank, Viva Republica and NHN Payco.

SC Bank Korea CEO Park Jong-bok, who has recently secured his third term as the lender’s chief joined the meeting between Eun and Winters.

The meeting also addressed Korea’s policy response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the global financial industry’s vision and future in the post-pandemic and low-interest rate era, according to a separate statement released by the FSC.

On SC Group’s Korean business, Winters stressed “the importance of the Korean market” and its commitment to the business here.

SC Bank Korea – which was launched in 2005 upon Standard Chartered’s acquisition of the Korea First Bank – has been building its reputation as a rare foreign lender trying to integrate localization into its identity.

As part of its efforts, it changed the Korean name of the bank to SC Cheil Bank in 2016, giving a nod to the lenders’ roots as Korea First Bank, more widely known as Cheil Bank here. 

From left: SC Bank Korea CEO Park Jong-bok, FSC Chairman Eun Sung-soo and Standard Chartered Group CEO Bill Winters (FSC)

SC Bank Korea reported robust operating profit of 236.5 billion won ($201.5 million) for the first half of the year, gaining 19 percent on-year, while most of its local industry rivals struggled with coronavirus woes.

It has been keeping an eye on the nation’s fintech industry as well, with a 6.67 percent stake in Viva Republica’s consortium that won the government’s preliminary approval for the launch of the nation’s third internet-only bank Toss Bank last year. Toss Bank is slated to be launched in 2021.

Winters’ remarks on Seoul’s potential as a financial hub came as Hong Kong’s role as Asia’s main financial center is reportedly at stake due to a recently passed security law there, infringing on the freedom of expression.

Winters kicked off his financial career at JP Morgan, where he later rose to the position of a co-chief executive officer until he stepped down in 2009. He founded and headed hedge fund Renshaw Bay before joining Standard Chartered Group as CEO in 2015.

By Jung Min-kyung  (mkjung@heraldcorp.com)