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January 5, 2017 7:25 pm JST
Competition heats up for top job at Shinhan Financial
Banking and credit card heads in close fight to be chief

KIM JAEWON, Nikkei staff writer
SEOUL -- The heads of Shinhan Financial Group's banking and credit card affiliates are in a stiff competition to become the leader of South Korea's most profitable financial conglomerate as the board begins the process of replacing CEO Han Dong-woo in March.

Han Dong-woo
Shinhan said that the board convened a meeting Wednesday to recommend candidates to take over the position of chief executive for the first time in six years. Han, 69, cannot pursue a third term due to a company regulation that states that CEOs cannot be older than 70.

"The committee's members reviewed the careers and accomplishments of candidates -- most of them are current and former CEOs of the group's affiliates," said the company in a statement.

Cho Yong-byoung
The group declined to reveal how many candidates are on the list, but confirmed that Shinhan Bank CEO Cho Yong-byoung and Shinhan Card Chief Executive Wi Sung-ho are leading the race because they head the group's two biggest affiliates.

Local daily newspaper JoongAng Ilbo reported that eight or nine candidates are in the running, including five CEOs from the group's key subsidiaries -- banking, credit card, brokerage, life insurer and asset management.

Wi Sung-ho
Cho, 59, has led the bank for two years, after heading Shinhan BNP Paribas Asset Management for two years. The Korea University graduate is credited for his risk management skills and global strategy.

The 58-year-old Wi has taken the helm of the credit card unit since August 2013, and has maintained the company's leadership in the market. He has pushed for new business projects in the mobile sector, embracing rapidly changing technology. He also graduated from Korea University.

Shinhan Bank is the largest affiliate of the group's 12 units, accounting for 65% of Shinhan Financial's net profit in the third quarter, followed by Shinhan Card contributing a 23% share. The group posted 707.9 billion won ($594 million) of net income in the July-September period, the largest profit in the country's financial sector.

The seven-member committee will make a shortlist in its next meeting later this month, and recommend a sole candidate to the board which will confirm the appointment. The new CEO will take the helm in March once shareholder approval has been gained.

Analysts say that group CEO Han, who is also a member of the committee, is key in choosing his successor because other members have shown their trust in his leadership and human resources policy. Han is credited for consolidating the group's leading status in the finance industry after he managed to resolve a fierce internal feud in 2010.