RETAIL BANKING | Cesar Tordesillas, Korea

Korean banks eye customers from overseas

Korean banks are luring foreign customers as a consequence of an increasing number of workers from abroad and marriage immigrants.

The foreign workers, mostly from China and other neighboring Asian countries, tend to send most of their income home to support their families left behind there. Local lenders are seeking handling fees for providing foreign exchange transactions.

The banks are also aiming to expand their offshore business operations, especially in the growing East Asian economies.

Korea Exchange Bank has already has about 420,000 foreign customers. Acquired by Hana Financial Group, KEB is preparing to expand its presence in the sector by providing better conditions and recently added the Saudi Arabian Embassy to its customer list by offering benefits for their diplomats.

The embassy initially did business with HSBC Korea. Analysts say the British banking giant’s plan to sell its Korean retail business also affected the decision.

Shinhan Bank is another lender showing great interest in gaining foreign customers and set up the Shinhan Bank Foreign Customer Department, a specialized bureau for foreign customers last year and seeks to offer them tailored services.

The lender publishes monthly newsletters containing a wide range of content from finance to tips on living in the country. Foreign employees work to handle customers from abroad and it also runs a call center which provides assistance in seven languages, including English, Japanese, Chinese, Thai and Mongolian.

The financial authorities are also preparing to better support foreign customers. Kwon Hyouk-se, governor of the Financial Supervisory Service said last week that the financial watchdog is urging lenders to release special products for foreign customers.

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