Financial authorities trying to entice global institutions
There are people who try to turn a crisis into an opportunity, especially during gloomy economic times, and there are also those who support such people in this challenging endeavor.
In this sense, the Financial Hub Korea, a special center established under the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS), belongs to the latter type, working devotedly to support local and global financial institutions to maximize opportunities.
“It’s obviously not a good time for business,” Min Byung-hyun, director of Financial Hub Korea, told The Korea Times, Wednesday. “But I believe there are also chances during a time of crisis.”
The nation’s economy has remained relatively strong despite the global recession and the eurozone crisis, and it can give local companies competitiveness in overseas markets and also offer global firms better chances here, he said.
“For example, many European firms may withdraw their operations from Southeast Asian countries due to the eurozone crisis, and it can be the best chance for local firms to buy attractive items there,” he said.
Even in Korea, the total size of the pie may appear to be shrinking, but there are still shares for international companies, he said.
“Of course, it’s totally up to them, but for those seeking a chance now, we are here for them,” Min said.
By strengthening the role of the center, the financial regulator seeks to attract decision-making bodies of renowned financial institutes to Korea so that it truly becomes a financial hub in Asia, he said.
“It’s true that many global financial firms have already been operating branches or subsidiaries here, but what we want is to get them to move their decision-making bodies here,” he said.
For that goal, the center is now taking steps to improve the business environment.
As part of such efforts, the center has published the revised English edition of a licensing handbook, titled “Korean Financial Company Licensing Handbook.”
It aims to help foreign financial institutions better understand the licensing procedures and related laws here and more easily enter the Korean market. It includes changes in Korean financial supervisory laws and regulations since its first publication in February 2010.
The center is also considering publishing the book in Chinese next year given the increasing interest by Chinese financial companies.
To support foreign customers living here, the center will also publish a revised version of a financial guidebook in English, which contains information and tips about financial transactions and legal procedures. Additional editions in Chinese and Japanese are also available from this year.
“Books may not be enough for them to fully understand the complicated aspects of licensing procedures and related laws, but if they come to our center, we will provide our utmost help,” Min said.
Since its establishment within the FSS in 2008, the center has played the role of “facilitator” to support foreign companies’ operations here and help local ones expand abroad, making efforts to promote communication channels with local and global players.
During a comparatively short period of time, the center has made outstanding achievements. Seoul ranked ninth in the Global Financial Center Index last year, up from 44 in 2008 before the center opened. The index shows the competitiveness of financial centers, published twice a year by the City of London Corporation. London topped the list, followed by New York and Hong Kong.
“We still have a long way to go to compete with cities like Hong Kong, which has a history of over 100 years. But we’re taking steps to catch up with them,” Min said.