BRANCH BANKING | Cesar Tordesillas, Korea

Korean banks focus on 3 wealthy Seoul districts

Nearly 30 percent of all bank branches in Seoul were found to be concentrated in three wealthy Gangnam areas--the districts of Gangnam, Seocho and Songpa.

The lenders rushed to establish branches in the Gangnam area where offices, hospitals and rich residences are commonly found.

A combined 136.7 trillion won, or 27.9 percent of banking deposits made at the five banks in Seoul were centralized in the three affluent districts last month.

The latest data from KB Financial Group revealed that about half of the “super rich,” who own more than 1billion won in financial assets, live in the area. 

According to the Financial Supervisory Service, a combined 564 branches of five major commercial lenders, or 27.7 percent of their 2,037 Seoul outlets, were based in the Gangnam area as of September.

The ratio is much higher than that of the population in the capital, which accounted for 16.2 percent within the Gangnam area in June, according to data from the Seoul Metropolitan Government.

Hana Bank, the No. 4 lender by assets that specializes in private banking services, has 103 branches in Seoul, or 43.6 percent of its total outlets in the city, doing business in Gangnam.

Fifty-six branches of Korea Exchange Bank, now under the umbrella of Hana Financial Group, or 36.4 percent of its outlets, are concentrated in the three districts. The top three lenders by assets,namely KB Kookmin, Woori and Shinhan, have also opened more than a quarter of their Seoul outlets in the rich districts.

The Gangnam centralization was also seen in the the number of bank employees. A total of 6,211 staff members of the five lenders in Seoul, or 24.9 percent of their total employees in the city, work there. In particular, KEB, Shinhan and Hana employ more than 30 percent of their staff in Seoul in the three districts.

The trend has led to relatively poor financial services in areas outside of Gangnam. The employee-to-customer ratio in the northern Gangbuk area marked 2,967 last month, twice that within Gangnam, which posted 1,370. It means that a customer in Gangbuk has to wait 10 minutes to obtain services while a Gangnam client can do so in five.

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