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Finance’s glass ceiling gets the tiniest of cracks

Jan 08,2019
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The number of women in senior management is slightly increasing in the financial industry, although they still account for less than 5 percent of executives in the overwhelmingly male-dominated industry.

Shinhan Bank, Woori Bank, KB Kookmin Bank and Hana Bank all recently promoted or retained female senior executives in reshuffles at the start of the year.

Shinhan promoted a woman to an executive-level position for the first time in five years, naming Wang Mi-hwa the head of the group’s wealth management unit and Cho Kyoung-sun as the bank’s executive vice president.

It is the second time that a woman has been appointed to a senior executive role since former Shinhan deputy vice president Shin Soon-cheol was appointed to the position in 2013.

Wang is a private banker who has worked in wealth management for almost 20 years.

Having formally led Shinhan Bank’s Bangbae branch, Shinhan Private Wealth Management’s Gangnam branch and the bank’s wealth management business in general, she will now head up wealth management for the entire group from next year.

Cho worked as a bank teller for 35 years before being promoted to executive.

A graduate of Yeongdeungpo Girls’ Commercial High School, she started her career at Shinhan bank in 1983 and worked as vice president of the customer service center, a branch manager in Eungam-dong and the head of the Wondang financial center.

Woori Bank promoted Jeong Jong-suk, director of wealth management, to executive vice president and Song Han-young, sales director in the Jongno sales department, to director of foreign exchange.

When Song was sales director in Jongno, she achieved the best key performance indicator results in the country. She was then transferred to sales director in Gangnam in 2017, where she maintained the No. 1 status for a year.

Song was promoted to director last year and has now been named executive vice president just a year later.

KB Financial Group named a female executive as CEO of one of its subsidiaries.

KB Kookmin Bank Vice President Park Jeong-rim has been appointed as CEO of KB Securities President, becoming the first female CEO in the securities business.

Park graduated from Seoul National University where she majored in business and has worked at the Seoul branch of Chase Manhattan Bank, Chohung Bank and Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance.

A high-ranking official from KB Securities said, “It is highly expected that Park, who is remarkable in wealth management, will take an important role in changing the profits of stock firms.”

Two female executives in Hana Financial Group - KEB Hana Bank executive director Baek Mi-gyeong, and Kim Nam-hee, a Hana Bank sales director - maintained their positions.

Despite the promotions, women remain largely unrepresented in senior positions in the finance industry. Just 3.9 percent of executives are women, a tiny proportion considering that 58 percent of bank tellers nationwide were women in 2017.

While the rate of rank-and-file female employees is gradually growing, the rate of female executives is still low.

Criticism that female executives are unrepresented in the local financial industry is getting louder.

“Recently, financial companies are appointing two to three female executives more often than before,” said Lee Eun-hyung, head of the Korean Women Economists Association and a professor of business at Kookmin University.

“But considering the financial industry’s characteristic which has relatively many female rank-and-file employees, the number of female executives is still low.”

Another official went further in their criticism, arguing that the change must come from the system itself.

“The firms trapped in a monolithic working culture favoring men can lag behind the rapidly-changing environment,” said Park Ju-gun, head of CEO Score, a corporate management information provider.

“Financial companies need to actively hire female talent in order to secure diversity in the working culture.”


BY YEOM JI-HYEON [kim.heyu@joongang.co.kr]