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Will Lee save K bank?

By Kim Bo-eun

K bank CEO Lee Mun-hwan
K bank CEO Lee Mun-hwan
Eyes are on K bank CEO Lee Mun-hwan as the internet lender swiftly seeks to normalize operations after bolstering its capital base.

K bank said Tuesday it had received 400 billion won in payments for purchases of its shares, bringing its total capital to 900 billion won.

The lender said its shareholders share the vision of K bank's business. It pledged to offer innovative mobile-based services and enhance synergy with shareholders.

Following the purchases, the top three shareholders of the bank are BC Card with 34 percent, followed by Woori Bank with 26.2 percent and NH Investment & Securities with 10 percent.

Lee is seen to have persuaded the shareholders, who had earlier raised doubts about K bank's business and potential.

Now the CEO will likely focus on normalizing loan operations and on achieving a surplus. The lender resumed offering loans last month, after loans were suspended for over a year since April 2019, due to a shortage of capital.

K bank is preparing to offer differentiated services, one of which is an apartment mortgage, applications for which will be executed 100 percent online.

K bank was launched as the first internet-only bank in April 2017, but has undergone difficulties due to a capital shortage.

Telecommunications giant KT led the launch of the bank and sought to become its largest shareholder last year as a means to inject capital into the lender.

However, the authorities suspended a review of KT's eligibility to be the largest shareholder because it was under investigation for having allegedly violated the Fair Trade Act.

K bank virtually suspended operations last year until recently.

The lender recorded a 100 billion won loss in 2019 ― it has seen a net loss of 24 billion won in the first quarter of this year.

The bank and shareholders came up with a Plan B which was to make BC Card, an affiliate of KT, the lender's majority shareholder.

The authorities approved BC Card becoming K bank's largest shareholder last week.

Analysts believe that K bank will be able to create synergy with the credit card firm.

Lee is a former CEO of BC Card. Prior to serving there, he was in key positions in management and planning as well as corporate business at KT.

Expectations are that K bank will be able to come up with new services that merge finance with information and communication technology (ICT).

While KT is no longer a shareholder of K bank, as BC Card took over the company's shares, an official of the lender said projects will continue.

K bank has a lot to do to catch up with its rival Kakao Bank as the gap between the two has widened over the year.

Kakao Bank posted its first annual surplus of 13.7 billion won in net profit last year. It has over 12 million users, while K bank has only 1.2 million.

"It appears shareholders were convinced about K bank's growth potential based on collaboration with BC Card as well as its parent company KT," an official at another bank said.

"K bank will likely offer services integrating finance and ICT and such partnerships are crucial for lenders which can no longer survive on their own. K bank also has potential as contactless services become increasingly necessary due to the pandemic."


By Kim Bo-eun

K bank CEO Lee Mun-hwan
K bank CEO Lee Mun-hwan
Eyes are on K bank CEO Lee Mun-hwan as the internet lender swiftly seeks to normalize operations after bolstering its capital base.

K bank said Tuesday it had received 400 billion won in payments for purchases of its shares, bringing its total capital to 900 billion won.

The lender said its shareholders share the vision of K bank's business. It pledged to offer innovative mobile-based services and enhance synergy with shareholders.

Following the purchases, the top three shareholders of the bank are BC Card with 34 percent, followed by Woori Bank with 26.2 percent and NH Investment & Securities with 10 percent.

Lee is seen to have persuaded the shareholders, who had earlier raised doubts about K bank's business and potential.

Now the CEO will likely focus on normalizing loan operations and on achieving a surplus. The lender resumed offering loans last month, after loans were suspended for over a year since April 2019, due to a shortage of capital.

K bank is preparing to offer differentiated services, one of which is an apartment mortgage, applications for which will be executed 100 percent online.

K bank was launched as the first internet-only bank in April 2017, but has undergone difficulties due to a capital shortage.

Telecommunications giant KT led the launch of the bank and sought to become its largest shareholder last year as a means to inject capital into the lender.

However, the authorities suspended a review of KT's eligibility to be the largest shareholder because it was under investigation for having allegedly violated the Fair Trade Act.

K bank virtually suspended operations last year until recently.

The lender recorded a 100 billion won loss in 2019 ― it has seen a net loss of 24 billion won in the first quarter of this year.

The bank and shareholders came up with a Plan B which was to make BC Card, an affiliate of KT, the lender's majority shareholder.

The authorities approved BC Card becoming K bank's largest shareholder last week.

Analysts believe that K bank will be able to create synergy with the credit card firm.

Lee is a former CEO of BC Card. Prior to serving there, he was in key positions in management and planning as well as corporate business at KT.

Expectations are that K bank will be able to come up with new services that merge finance with information and communication technology (ICT).

While KT is no longer a shareholder of K bank, as BC Card took over the company's shares, an official of the lender said projects will continue.

K bank has a lot to do to catch up with its rival Kakao Bank as the gap between the two has widened over the year.

Kakao Bank posted its first annual surplus of 13.7 billion won in net profit last year. It has over 12 million users, while K bank has only 1.2 million.

"It appears shareholders were convinced about K bank's growth potential based on collaboration with BC Card as well as its parent company KT," an official at another bank said.

"K bank will likely offer services integrating finance and ICT and such partnerships are crucial for lenders which can no longer survive on their own. K bank also has potential as contactless services become increasingly necessary due to the pandemic."


Kim Bo-eun bkim@koreatimes.co.kr

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