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FSS chief vows to facilitate Korean financial firms’ global expansion

Feb. 6, 2023 - 18:26 By Song Seung-hyun
Lee Bok-hyun, chief of the Financial Supervisory Service, talks during a press conference held to announce its plans for 2023 at the financial watchdog's headquarters in Seoul, Monday. (Yonhap)

Lee Bok-hyun, chief of the Financial Supervisory Service, pledged to help local finance companies beef up their presence in the overseas market on Monday.

The country's financial watchdog will first hold talks with counterparts in Southeast Asia, which are considered the major market for domestic financial firms.

“I understand that there are demands from local banks and securities firms, asking the FSS to communicate with foreign financial watchdogs in markets that they have entered,” Lee said during a press conference held to announce the watchdog’s plans for 2023 at its headquarters in Seoul. “We will actively communicate with foreign financial authorities by inviting them over to Korea and also visiting their offices abroad.”

Lee also said that the FSS is currently working together with other related government bodies like the Ministry of Strategy and Finance to make changes to some of the domestic regulations, which are deemed as hurdles for global expansion.

“We finished making a list of some of the regulations that need to be reformed. We will soon announce adjustments that will be made," he said.

“(Local financial firms) have been putting efforts to develop capabilities of direct asset management in Association of Southeast Asian Nations markets, as well as in more developed markets like London and New York, but our regulation system has been solely centered on the domestic market,” Lee added.

Moreover, the head of FSS also said he will assist local firms to attract more money from overseas investors.

He raised the Monetary Authority of Singapore as a good example of a financial authority that has been introducing its financial firms globally by holding investor relations events in global finance hubs.

Lee then promised that FSS will organize similar investor relations events during the first quarter of this year.

Red tape for foreign financial firms that are trying to enter the Korean market will be also reduced.

Lee said the current approval process for establishing an office or branch in Korea will be improved.

"Let's say that foreign companies have to go through 10 steps to get approval and were informed that it takes a certain amount of time. If their documents lack certain information when they reach step three, it takes double the time that they were first informed with under the current approval process," he explained.

Once the change takes place, the process will take less time and clearer guidelines will be provided about required documents and data that foreign firms have to submit, Lee said.

Meanwhile, during the conference, Lee also put pressure on Korean financial holdings firms by saying that their appointment processes “do not meet global standards.”

“Recently we have seen some cases where financial holdings firms announce a long list of chairman candidates that were selected without clear standards,” Lee said. “Relative to the crucial role the financial holdings companies play in our society, this process is not done transparently.”

He added that the FSS will strengthen direct communication with the board of directors of those financial companies and also examine their operations to see if are measures to institutionally support improving their corporate governance.