|An attendee passes by the stage during the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2020 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas in this January 2020 file photo. / AP-Yonhap|
By Park Jae-hyuk
Local banking groups are paying less attention to this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which kicked off Monday as an online event, for the first time in its 55-year history, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Their lukewarm attitude is in stark contrast to their keen interest in the previous year's event, to which they sent a number of top executives and employees to learn state-of-the-art technologies that might be applied to their digital banking services.
Woori and NongHyup financial groups decided not to attend the world's largest electronics fair this year, after sending employees from their digital banking departments to the event in Las Vegas last year to look at technologies for their digitization projects.
"Because we have been unable to look around the booths in person as before, our digital group considered this year's event less useful," a Woori spokesman said.
KB Financial Group is allowing the employees of its subsidiaries to attend the CES 2021 personally if they want to. The group drew attention last year as its Chairman Yoon Jong-kyoo flew to Las Vegas to attend the show along with 17 employees from KB Kookmin Bank, KB Kookmin Card, KB Investment and KB Research.
"KB Research asked the group headquarters how it can participate in this year's event," a spokesman said. "But we don't know the exact number of our employees attending the event because we did not force them to see the show."
Hana Financial Group has yet to confirm whether it is attending the CES 2021. The company did not send employees to the previous year's event, but it was reported later that Chairman Kim Jung-tai had visited the show.
Shinhan Financial Group is the only Korean banking group showing an interest in the all-digital CES.
"Including our Chairman Cho Yong-byoung, our group's top executives will attend the event online to understand new technology trends and gain an insight into them," a spokesman said. "All members of our group's digital planning team will participate in the event, and the employees of our subsidiaries will also attend separately."
The CES 2021 has faced concerns among industry insiders, since a huge number of businesses worldwide declined to attend. According to the organizers, the number of participants dropped to 1,950 this year from 4,500 in 2020. This was mainly attributed to the sharp decline in the number of Chinese participants ― an 85 percent decrease from 1,368 last year to 205 this year.
Because a number of big-name Korean firms including Hyundai Motor Group, SK Group, LG Uplus and KT decided not to participate, the number of Korean companies also dropped to 341 from 390 last year, although this is the second-largest number of participating companies, following 570 from the United States.