New Hana Financial chief vows to put firm on the map

Hana Financial Group Chairman Ham Young-joo (Hana Financial Group)

Hana Financial Group Chairman Ham Young-joo (Hana Financial Group)

The new chairman of Hana Financial Group on Sunday pledged to help the group become Asia’s top financial company by improving its global profile, nonbanking investment and digital finance.  

“At this time when the financial industry is at an inflection point of blurring boundaries, an accelerating aging population and slowing growth, I will (help the company to) improve shareholders and corporate value and establish a transparent, fair and stable governance structure,” said Ham Young-joo, the new chairman of Hana Financial, in a statement.

While restructuring the group’s nonlending sector, the chairman plans to expand the group’s entry to the Asian market through M&As and stake investments in countries including Indonesia and Vietnam. The group will also engage more on corporate finances in collaboration with Korean companies making inroads into advanced markets like the US and Europe.

The statement came after he was elected by shareholders as the new chairman of the group on Friday. The then vice chairman was the sole chairman nominee and is to lead the company for the next three years, the firm said.

Ham’s nomination was supported by the majority of the shareholders at Hana including its largest shareholder, the National Pension Service, which owns 9.19 percent in the banking group. Foreign stakeholders, owning a combined 67.53 percent, also voted for Ham, according to Hana. The NPS is Korea’s largest institutional investor.

Ham has now officially replaced former Chairman Kim Jung-tai, who was at the helm of the group for a decade.

Shareholders on Friday also agreed to provide a retirement bonus worth 5 billion won ($4.1 million) for Kim.

Following his nomination by the firm’s chairman recommendation committee on Feb. 8, Ham, however, has since had to navigate a rocky road and overcome two legal hurdles on the way.

He was cleared of any wrongdoings in the hiring scandal by the Seoul Western District Court on March 11, but was held responsible for the lender’s improper sales of derivatives-linked products in a separate ruling.

The court decision put him at risk of losing his nomination as the sanction bans the recipient from being hired in a new role in the financial sector for at least three years.

The air cleared for Ham, however, as a higher court temporarily suspended the punishment by accepting an injunction a day before the vote took place. He has filed for an appeal.

Ham, born in 1956 in rural South Chungcheong Province, is well-known within and outside Hana as someone who has climbed his way from the bottom of the corporate ladder to the top of the country’s exclusive circle of banking elites.

He entered Seoul Bank, a predecessor of Hana Bank, in 1980 as a teller after only graduating high school.

Hoping to receive a college education, Ham enrolled in night courses as an accounting major at the College of Business & Economics at Dankook University in Seoul, and graduated in 1985 with a bachelor’s degree.

Ham became CEO of Hana Bank in 2015, after the bank’s acquisition of Korea Exchange Bank by US private equity Lone Star was finalized in 2015. He later stepped down as CEO of the commercial lender in 2019, after successfully merging the systems of the two separate banks.

From 2016, he had taken on the double duty as vice chairman of the bank’s holding entity Hana Financial Group, mapping out the firm’s business strategy.

By Jung Min-kyung (

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