Banks pledge to extend hours

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Banks pledge to extend hours

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A KB Kookmin Bank branch that stays open until 7 p.m. in Gangnam District, southern Seoul. [KB KOOKMIN BANK]

From next year, local commercial banks will extend their working hours from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. for customers unable to visit brick-and-mortar branches during the day. Some major bank branches will be operating on weekends, too.

The moves were in response to Finance Minister Choi Kyung-hwan’s rebuke of the banking industry last month, in which he claimed that Korea was the only country where the banks close at 4 p.m.

The remark was intended to draw attention to Korea’s waning global competitiveness in the financial sector. It was criticized by the financial industry’s trade unions, but the leaders of the nation’s financial institutions quickly began working on measures to appease the top economic official.

According to the Korea Federation of Banks (KFB) on Sunday, major banks are currently devising their business plans for next year, and changing their operating hours are central to those revisions.

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Currently, 12 local banks are operating 536 branches with extended hours as of late last year, accounting for 7.3 percent of the total bank branches nationwide.

Four commercial banks - KB, KEB Hana, Standard Chartered and Kyongnam - have confirmed plans to modify the current operating hours at some major branches from next year, reporting to the KFB. One more bank is expected to do so, the association said.

“There are many bank branches that have extended hours, but few customers are aware of it,” said Lee Byeong-chan, an official at the association. “Transaction fees at those extended branches are the same as at normal ones.”

Kyongnam Bank will launch two branches that will open until 7 p.m. in several commercial districts by the end of the year.

KB already has some branches that are open later, but it plans to open more in areas with high commuting populations.

“We are now revising the locations of the branches, with a focus on making the branches more flexible with their hours,” said a spokesman at KB Kookmin Bank.

KEB Hana Bank is planning to launch flexible branches in areas where immigrant workers are major customers and at some residential areas. The bank will also start a branch open on Sundays.

Standard Chartered will extend the operating hours of branches located near department stores and large discount stores. The branches will also operate on weekends.

NH Nonghyup Bank already operates flexible branches in some public institutions, but it plans to add more.

Some banks are considering developing more advanced ATMs that allow customers to do everything from conducting normal fund transfers to creating new bank accounts, issuing debit cards and making Internet-banking IDs.

Domestic banks are trying to imitate financial companies in Europe and the United States, many of which operate branches with flexible operating hours. Deutsche Bank, based in Germany, operates flexible branches in Berlin and Hamburg that open two hours earlier on Tuesdays and Thursdays. In Los Angeles, Bank of America and Wells Fargo have branches open on weekends.

Information about locations of all flexible bank branches will be available on the homepage of the KFB starting next year. Currently, each bank puts up notices on their own websites.


BY KANG BYONG-CHOL [song.suhyun@joongang.co.kr]

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