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Banks turn to migrant workers, expat professionals

Korea Times - 3 December 2015 - Domestic commercial banks, troubled by record-low interest rates and a rapid increase in the number of customers using Internet and mobile banking, are racking their brains to find new means of making profits. One such revenue source is foreigners living in this country.

Domestic commercial banks, troubled by record-low interest rates and a rapid increase in the number of customers using Internet and mobile banking, are racking their brains to find new means of making profits. One such revenue source is foreigners living in this country.

The banks, which have focused on cash remittance by guest workers and multicultural families, are now spreading their business to private banking services for high-income professionals and wealthy expats, say banking sources.

Financial regulators are also calling for an improvement to services for foreigners, who suffer from language barriers and lack of financial knowledge and information, forcing financial service firms to develop more varied financial instruments and services.

An example of this is the opening of specialized branches for high-income expatriates, including lawyers and public accountants. Woori Bank, for instance, operates "global desks" at the headquarters of large Korean businesses, which deal exclusively with foreign clients.

The banks are paying particular attention to wealthy Chinese people. KEB-Hana opened International PB Center in southern Seoul, in June, targeting wealthy Chinese people in the country, providing them with asset-management services, in cooperation with Chinese partners.

According to the Financial Supervisory Service, the number of foreign residents in Korea soared from 600,000 in 2003 to 1.54 million in 2013, and their remittance also increased to about 6.8 trillion won ($5.8 billion) last year.

To grab a larger share of this market, banks are going all out by, for instance, extending service time to weekends and providing translation services, not just in English, but in Russian, Vietnamese, Philippine and Mongolian languages.

"Through extending banking services for multicultural families and migrant workers, the banks can expand their customer bases and offer help for people relatively alienated from financial services," said an official at NH Bank.

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Source: http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/biz/2015/12/488_192334.html

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