Sohn to head Woori Fi­nan­cial, Woori Bank

The Korea Times - - NATIONAL - By Park Hy­ong-ki hy­ongki@ko­re­

Woori Bank CEO Sohn Tae-se­ung will head both Woori Bank and Woori Fi­nan­cial Group un­til March 2020, the bank said Thurs­day.

The bank’s board de­cided that Sohn should take on “dou­ble duty” as the chair­man and chief ex­ec­u­tive of the hold­ing com­pany and Woori Bank, fol­low­ing the Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices Com­mis­sion’s (FSC) ap­proval of the gover­nance pro­posal.

Given the bank will con­tinue to serve as the core busi­ness, ac­count­ing for more than 90 per­cent of the group’s earn­ings un­til it starts boost­ing its non­bank­ing busi­ness through ac­qui­si­tions, the board said Sohn was a good fit for the po­si­tions.

He will be of­fi­cially ap­pointed as chair­man of Woori Fi­nan­cial Group, Dec. 28.

“Woori Bank will inevitably have to be the cen­ter of the group,” a spokesman said. “After the dis­cus­sions, the board saw the need to have the in­cum­bent chief ex­ec­u­tive also head the hold­ing com­pany.”

With 23 sub­sidiaries and af­fil­i­ates at home and abroad, the group will make an of­fi­cial come­back in Fe­bru­ary 2019, and join other ma­jor hold­ing com­pa­nies such as KB, Shin­han and Hana.

This will come after Woori relists its shares here and its Amer­i­can de­pos­i­tory re­ceipt shares in Jan­uary 2019.

As Sohn will run the fi­nan­cial group, he will have more ca­pac­ity and free­dom to seek and ac­quire other firms as a means of build­ing the non­bank­ing busi­ness.

The bank has in­di­cated the group will pur­sue ac­qui­si­tions of bro­ker­ages and in­vest­ment banks that could be later merged with Woori In­vest­ment Bank.

It would be par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested in “big” tar­gets, rather than small and medium se­cu­ri­ties com­pa­nies, ac­cord­ing to Woori Bank.

As a fi­nan­cial hold­ing com­pany, it will be able to buy and in­vest in equi- ties of big­ger as­sets, as the law al­lows it to spend up to 130 per­cent of cap­i­tal for eq­uity in­vest­ments and ac­qui­si­tions. A bank is only al­lowed up to 20 per­cent.

Its other ac­qui­si­tion in­ter­ests in­clude real es­tate and as­set man­age­ment, which will be able to gen­er­ate syn­ergy with in­vest­ment bank­ing, Woori said.

How­ever, be­fore it starts look­ing for tar­gets, the bank said re­or­ga­ni­za­tion tasks re­mained.

“Woori Card and Woori In­vest­ment Bank will have to move un­der the group,” the spokesman said.

Woori Bank owns Woori Card and has a 59.83 per­cent stake in Woori In­vest­ment Bank, ac­cord­ing to the bank’s au­dit fil­ing. Mi­nor­ity share­hold­ers hold the rest in Woori In­vest­ment Bank listed on the KOSPI.

Woori Bank’s key share­hold­ers in­clude the state-run Korea De­posit In­sur­ance Corp. and the Na­tional Pen­sion Ser­vice. For­eign in­vestors hold 27 per­cent of the bank, which is seek­ing to in­crease this to a sim­i­lar level of other fi­nan­cial hold­ing com­pa­nies — 70 per­cent on av­er­age.

This is why Sohn has been trav­el­ing over­seas to meet po­ten­tial long-term in­sti­tu­tional in­vestors over the past months, the bank said.

Be­fore be­com­ing chief ex­ec­u­tive in 2017, he was head of the bank’s global busi­ness unit.

Korea Times file

Woori Bank’s head­quar­ters in Seoul

Woori Bank CEO Sohn Tae-se­ung

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