|Former Kakao Bank co-CEO Lee Yong-woo, left, sits with the other co-CEO Yun Ho-young, at a press conference held July 26, 2018, marking the one year anniversary of the bank's launch at the Plaza Hotel in Seoul. / Korea Times file|
By Kim Bo-eun
The decision by Kakao Bank's co-CEO Lee Yong-woo to leave the internet lender and run in the general election has brought about a change in the bank's leadership.
Lee served as co-chief along with Yun Ho-young since 2015 when Kakao was preparing to launch the bank. He joined the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, Sunday, ahead of the elections slated for April.
Yun is set to serve as the sole CEO for the time being, while Kakao Bank decides on whether it will fill Lee's position.
"We will have to draw up a committee if we decide to keep the co-leadership system and matters will be decided from then onward," a Kakao Bank official said Tuesday.
A decision will likely be made by the general shareholders' meeting to be held in March.
Attention is growing over the bank's leadership, as 2020 will likely be an important year for the bank, which has plans to go public in the latter half. It is set to accelerate its business this year, after earning a surplus and securing over 10 million users in 2019.
Lee was the finance expert among the two chiefs, having worked for 30 years in the sector.
He began his career as a researcher at the Hyundai Research Institute in 1992 and entered the finance sector when he joined Dongwon Securities in 2002. He was in charge of strategy at Korea Investment Holdings and headed investment divisions at Korea Investment and Securities. He was chief investment officer at Korea Investment Management before moving to Kakao Bank as co-CEO in 2016.
Yun began his career at an insurer but moved to the internet company Daum later taken over by Kakao.
Yun and Lee were serving their second term which began in January last year. Yun's term will end in January 2021.
With Lee's departure, the bank's ties to Korea Investment Holdings appear to have loosened to some extent. The holdings company was the largest shareholder of the bank, but this changed in November, when Kakao became the largest shareholder.
Meanwhile, Lee drew attention for having given up stock options that are likely to have reaped huge profits with Kakao Bank's scheduled IPO.
Kakao is one of the two internet-only banks here. The other is K bank, which continues to struggle due to its lack of capital. It is seeking to change its majority shareholder to the telecommunications giant KT, but faces a regulatory hurdle, due to allegations that KT violated the Fair Trade Act. K bank's chief Shim Sung-hoon's term was recently extended for another three months through March.