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Thursday, 2 July 2015

KorEconomics 101 (한국경제학개론), Part XIX: HSBC Korea - A Banking Company from China FAILS to attract Korean Customers, REALLY?


The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (Korea) Limited or simply known as HSBC Korea is a banking and financial services company headquartered at 37 Chilpae Avenue/Chilpae-ro, Bongnae-dong 1-ga 25-beonji, Seoul Jung-gu - a wholly owned subsidiary of The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited which is headquartered in Hong Kong and Shanghai, China. 

HSBC’s presence in Korea dates back to August 21st 1897 when it opened its first branch in Jemulpo Harbor (present-day Incheon Metropole) during the reign of Emperor Gojong-Gwangmu, First Emperor of Korea in prior to the Foundation of Korean Empire. The bank offered current accounts to a diverse group of foreign merchants, traders and local entrepreneurs. It also helped finance the thriving port’s traded goods and took part in collective loans to invest in modernising infrastructure projects such as the Gyeongbu (Seoul-Busan) Railway Line, completed in 1905. 

In October 1974, the Bank of Korea invited HSBC to establish its own office for trade finance in Seoul. HSBC Korea provides banking and financial services in South Korea. It offers money market deposits and saving accounts, term and cluster term deposits, multi currency saving accounts, and FX term deposits; personal installment loans, home mortgage loans, and deposit backed loans; investment services; retirement planning services; and personal accounts.

However, HSBC Korea closed its retail branch network and wealth management businesses in South Korea, leaving only the global banking and markets unit that serves corporate clients effective on July 8th 2013. In March 20th 2014, the bank closed 10 of its branches in South Korea, leaving behind a single office to support the global banking and markets unit which helps corporates raise capital, trade and invest. The branches affected due to the closure are:
  • Samseong-dong, Seoul Gangnam-gu
  • Seocho-dong, Seoul Seocho-gu
  • Bangbae-dong, Seoul Seocho-gu
  • Apgujeong-dong, Seoul Gangnam-gu
  • Gwangjang-dong, Seoul Gwangjin-gu
  • Seongnam Bundang-gu, Gyeonggi Province 
  • Incheon
  • Busan
  • Daegu
  • Daejeon

HSBC spokeswoman said 230 staff in Korea will be affected by the closures. They will be offered a redundancy package or the choice of working at the bank until the wind-down is completed, she said by telephone.

HSBC is not alone among global banks in having struggled to make progress in retail banking in Korea. Standard Chartered Korea may take a more than $1 billion hit on its Korean business, analysts said last month, after an aggressive restructuring due to weak returns, a dispute with staff and tough regulations. Standard Chartered has had troubles with its First Bank business since it bought it in 2005 for $3.3 billion. It said in late June that it will assess whether to write off some of the $1.85 billion goodwill value it has assigned to the business.

HSBC itself tried to invest more heavily in Korea by buying a controlling stake in Korea Exchange Bank in 2007, before abandoning the attempt in September 2008 amid regulatory difficulties and the developing global financial crisis. The bank's decision to retain its global banking and markets unit in Korea makes sense, said Investec's Ian Gordon, allowing it to retain the profitable business of serving global clients who have a presence in the country.