KB Financial search down to four

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KB Financial search down to four

The list of candidates for the next chairman of KB Financial Group has been narrowed to four, including three former KB executives.

The search recommendation committee on Thursday identified the candidates as Kim Ki-hong, former senior vice president of Kookmin Bank; Yoon Jong-kyoo, former vice president of the group; Ji Dong-hyun, former vice president of Kookmin Card; and Ha Yung-ku, chairman of Citibank Korea.

The committee is considering who would be the most qualified candidate for the group’s top position, given that the major cause of the latest boardroom feud was said to be parachute appointments of outside figures who aren’t familiar with KB corporate culture.

Kim worked not only for KB, but the Financial Supervisory Service. He served as deputy governor of the financial watchdog from 1999-2001. At KB, Kim led the creation of the holding company and establishment of the current management organization.

Yoon was an accountant at PricewaterhouseCoopers Korea before joining KB. He was the chief financial officer of the group in 2010.

Ji, a former researcher at Korea Institute of Finance, is recognized for both his theoretical background and executive ability. He was vice president of Chohung Bank, which became Shinhan Bank in 2004. At KB, he formulated the major growth strategies of the group.

“A number of committee members regard the candidates’ experience at KB as most important,” said Kim Young-jin, head of the committee.

That can be interpreted to mean the committee has learned a lesson from the latest boardroom feud that led to the dismissal of the former Chairman Lim Young-rok and former Kookmin Bank CEO Lee Kun-ho.

The feud between the two affected the bank board’s decision-making process on the issue of changing the main computer system. Last month, financial authorities punished the two for damaging the institution’s operation with heavy penalties that could bar them from landing a job in the financial industry for three to five years.

Meanwhile, rumors are circulating in the financial industry that the Citibank Korea chairman has been already chosen unofficially.

Among the four candidates, Ha is the only who has led a financial institution. He is in the 14th year of his chairmanship at Citibank Korea. Ha is well-known for his industry connections and strong relationships with government officials.

He has already tendered his resignation as Citibank Korea chairman, suggesting he will seriously pursue the KB chairman position.

“Ha receives the highest salary of all financial institution heads in the country,” said an industry insider. “Ditching the Citibank job means he is confident he can get the KB position.”

Some also say Ha is highly likely to be nominated because of his close connection with Cho Yoon-sun, senior secretary of political affairs for President Park Geun-hye.

“Cho served as vice president at Citibank from 2007-08,” said an executive at Citibank, who declined to be named. “Ha hired Cho even though she had no financial background, and now Cho has become a heavyweight of the current government, so she might have some influence.”

Final interviews of the four candidates will be conducted Wednesday.

BY SONG SU-HYUN, PARK YU-MI [ssh@joongang.co.kr]

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