South Korea vows to seek to ‘keep foreign finance firms’

The head of South Korea’s financial services regulator vowed today to step up efforts keep foreign banks and other financial services firms from leaving, in the wake of a number of high-profile departures.

“It’s worrisome that the branches of some foreign financial companies have withdrawn or scaled down their operations,” Jeong Eun-bo, vice chairman of the country’s Financial Services Commission (FSC), was quoted by the English-language news website Yonhapnews as having told a gathering of CEOs of the South Korean operations of a number of foreign financial institutions.

The online Korea Herald newspaper added that he told the CEOs:  “[The South Korean financial authorities] will review whether there are elements in [the country’s] financial environment that fall short of global standards”.

Earlier this year Barclays pulled out of South Korea, on the heels of the Royal Bank of Scotland in 2015, Yonhapnews noted, while Goldman Sachs recently consolidated some of its operations in the market.

Jeong admitted that there were reasons some foreign firms leave, and have left, South Korea, such as a shift in management strategy at their headquarters; a worsening profitability outlook; and tougher global financial rules, according to Yonhapnews.

“Nonetheless,” it added, he vowed that the FSC “will review how to improve South Korea’s financial business conditions in consideration of global standards”, and “make more efforts to strengthen communication with you”.

Today’s reports of Jeong’s statements come two months after FSC chairman Yim Jong-yong, as reported,  detailed his country’s recent reforms to its financial sector in a comment piece published by the Wall Street Journal.

In the most recent ranking of international financial centres published by London-based Z/Yen, Seoul fell six places, to 12th, making it one of the biggest fallers out of the seven top-ten Asia/Pacific financial centres that slid lower, relative to their standing in 2015.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Helen Burggraf
Helen Burggraf is the editor of International Investment. A US-trained journalist, she has worked in Rome, New York City and London, covering everything from the fashion and retailing industries to the global drinking water and water-treatment sector, private equity, and most recently, the international cross-border financial services/advice industry.

Read more from Helen Burggraf

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