November 13, 2019

Losing what they hold most dear: Trust

PUBLISHED : February 09, 2018 - 13:01

UPDATED : February 10, 2018 - 21:07

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[THE INVESTOR] In the past week, two Korean major banks KEB Hana and KB Kookmin reported record-high net profit for 2017. But overshadowing their blockbuster bottom lines, prosecutors here launched a probe into alleged hiring irregularities. 

The prosecution now says it has secured the evidence to suspect foul play. And it’s not just these two banks. The list includes provincial banks as well, such as Daegu Bank and Kwangju Bank.

The recent turn of events reminded me of a friend of mine who wanted to start a career in finance. After more than a year seeking jobs in the industry, she -- a 27-year-old at the time who had graduated cum laude, had various financial certifications and an internship at a policy bank under her belt -- confided that she would have to find a way to get the right connections if she was ever going to make it. 

The connections she was referring to was, family wealth and the brand value of university -- all things she couldn’t control. Despite what she said, I wanted to think she was imagining things.

But was I wrong.

KEB Hana is now being accused of manipulating interview scores for candidates from the country’s top three universities. Its actions changed the fate of 14 candidates -- seven from the aforementioned three universities were hired, while another seven who received higher scores, were turned down. 

A group of social activists hold a protest at the headquarters of KEB Hana Bank on Feb. 8, demanding an apology for alleged hiring irregularities.

At KB, a relative of group Chairman Yoon Jong-kyoo was hired despite ranking 813th out of 840 applicants in the first round of the process. In the second round, she placed 273rd out of 300 interviewees.

Woori Bank recruited employees with ties to influential people, including VIP clients and government officials at the Financial Supervisory Service and the FSS and National Intelligence Service. Woori hired as many as 31 such employees between 2015 and 2017.

The banks are all denying wrongdoing, and no official apologies appear to be forthcoming yet.

The issue comes at a time when youth unemployment has been rising for years. Granted, it’s not just because of society. There is a certain mistmatch between skills and jobs that we won’t go into here.

But for young people who are tired of endless job hunting, that these banks chose employees based on their backgrounds is an act of extreme betrayal.

The institutions' near-sightedness is another cause for concern. Well-connected employees might be of help in the short-term, but such practices are bound to catch up with them, and when this happens, banks lose what’s most important in their line of work; trust.

One more thing that the banks might want to take a note is that this is not the era when customers and talents are drawn to traditional financial institutions. Alternatives are cropping up everywhere. Take, for example, blockchain and cryptocurrency.

As for my friend, she gave up on her dream of working at a local financial institution, left the country and landed a high paying job somewhere else in Asia. 


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