Leading banks rush to hire foreign employees
By Kim Jae-won
Li Longzhu has worked for Shinhan Bank for over one-and-half years since October 2010. The Yanji, China native is working with a retail team in the Foreign Customer Department, a special team dealing with non-Korean clients of the lender.
He says working in a Korean bank is worthwhile if the foreign employee is ready to embrace a speedy working rhythm and dynamic situation.
“Everything is okay as long as you try to study your job. You need to follow up everything as change happens so quickly,” Li said.
Li is one of eight non-Korean employees in the nation’s third-largest bank. Four of them are from the U.S. and one each from New Zealand, Mongolia, Japan and China.
Korean banks are rushing to hire foreign employees, like Li, to draw more international customers and thereby become bigger. The number of foreign residents topped the 1.4 million-mark recently and is expected to increase further in the near future.
The country has long been dominated by a mono-ethnic culture, but now it is transforming to a multicultural society due to increasing foreign workers and marriage immigrants from neighboring Asian countries and other parts of the world.
About half of the foreign employees in Korea are Chinese as lenders want to provide financial services for Chinese workers here. China is the No. 1 exporter of human resources to Korea.
Shinhan leads the trend. It set up the Foreign Customer Department last year to focus on the business. The department publishes a monthly news letter to provide information on financial services to foreign customers.
Other lenders also seek to reach foreign customers by hiring non-Korean employees. For instance, Hana Bank hired seven foreign employees recently ― four from China and one each from the U.S., Canada, and Australia. They were dispatched to the headquarters and branches after completing a training program.
“We hired foreign employees under the name of global professionals. We dispatched some of them to foreign subsidiaries,” said a Hana official.
Hana seeks to strengthen its foothold overseas, especially in the U.S. and in the Asian region. The lender’s parent company Hana Financial Group seeks to be one of the top 50 global financial companies in three years, and its flagship affiliate Hana Bank wants to contribute to the plan by globalizing its human resources and organization.
Industrial Bank of Korea (IBK) added 12 marriage immigrants to its payroll last month. Half of them are Vietnamese, while three of them are Chinese and one each from the Philippines, Nepal and Indonesia.
They are working at branches where many foreign clients visit, such as in Itaewon and Singil in Seoul. The IBK has a closer relationship with foreign workers as the lender specializes in small- and medium-sized enterprises, where most of the migrant workers are employed.
In particular, it has a branch in Ansan Foreign Community Center, the nation’s biggest foreigner district where about 80,000 reside.
KB Kookmin Bank has 13 foreign workers. Seven of them are working at the Global Department at its headquarters, a specialized bureau for international customers. The others work at branches of the nation’s biggest lender by asset. Most of the workforce is from the U.S., China and Kazakhstan.
Woori Bank joined the trend in 2010 by hiring two young Chinese employees who graduated from prestigious colleges in China and came here for graduate studies. One of them has Korean roots. They all work in the lender’s branches by providing financial services to Chinese speakers.