The Korea Herald


KB’s new chief starts term by vowing to give back to society

By Song Seung-hyun

Published : Nov. 21, 2023 - 17:46

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KB Financial Group's new Chairman Yang Jong-hee (KB Financial Group) KB Financial Group's new Chairman Yang Jong-hee (KB Financial Group)

Yang Jong-hee, the new chairman of KB Financial Group, South Korea's largest financial giant, commenced his official term on Tuesday, putting renewed emphasis on “giving back to society.”

"I deeply feel the weight of responsibility that comes with the role of finance," Yang said during his inaugural ceremony held at the group's headquarters in Seoul earlier in the day.

"There is a saying that ‘if we want to go far, we go together.’ Without the growth of values for both customers and society, the company's sustainable leap forward becomes a challenge,” he added.

Yang's emphasis on giving back to the community comes as the nation’s top financial groups are under heightened pressure to play a role in easing the public’s financial burdens amid their record earnings, largely buoyed by rising interest rates.

In a meeting with financial authorities Monday, heads of eight local financial groups -- NH NongHyup, Shinhan, Woori, Hana, KB, BNK, JB, and DGB -- pledged to come up with a concrete vision to share more profits worth an estimated 1.9 trillion won ($1.4 billion) by the end of the year.

Yang’s inauguration was held after KB’s shareholders approved him as the next chairman during a temporary shareholders meeting Friday, with 97 percent of votes in his favor. His three-year term started Tuesday.

Industry sources interpret the overwhelming approval from shareholders as evidence that the succession planning initiative of KB's former chairman, Yoon Jong-kyoo, has been successful.

Back in August, Yoon announced that he decided not to seek his fourth term, just days before the conglomerate's planned announcement of its shortlist of candidates for the head position.

The former chairman held the post for nine years since 2014 and his three-year-long third term expired Monday.

Yoon introduced the vice chairman position in 2020 to cultivate candidates for his potential successor. Among the three vice-chairmen, Yang oversaw four business divisions -- retail financing, wealth management, pensions and SMEs.

Regarding the future of the vice chairman position, the new chairman declined to comment Tuesday, saying the matter is still under discussion.

Alongside contributing to society, Yang is also committed to managing with the aim of providing the best experience to the group's clients, instilling pride and dreams in employees, and reciprocating the support of shareholders, as stated in his inaugural speech.

In his address, Yang also reflected on his unwavering commitment to the group, saying "I began my journey with KB as an ordinary employee, dedicating over 30 years to the company.”

Yang started his career at KB Kookmin Bank in 1989 and relocated to KB Financial Group, the holding unit, in 2008.

He is considered a strategic leader within the group as he has played a key role in major deals, including the group's acquisition of LIG Insurance.

For the new leader, one of his first tasks is expected to be a leadership reshuffle across the group's affiliates. Of the total 11 subsidiaries, the terms of nine CEOs are set to expire at the end of the year.