Second “35-year long Industrial Banker” to be promoted from within
As the vice-chairwoman of Industrial Bank of Korea (IBK)’s risk-management team Kwon Seon-joo (57·photo) became the newly appointed bank CEO, an era of female bank CEOs began. On December 23, the Financial Services Commission recommended vice-chairwoman Kwon as the next term IBK CEO, stating that she is “the right person for the position in a situation where the bank’s financial soundness must be heightened through risk management and consumer protection is emphasized.” The fact that a female CEO has been born in an organization so conservative even for men to survive is an important incident in the history of Korean banks. It is also worth welcoming that it is the second inside promotion after former bank CEO Cho Jun-hee. Kwon expressed her determination saying “As the first female bank CEO, there will be hardships, but if this is the zeitgeist and if the society holds high expectations, I will do my best to satisfy them.”
In fact, Kwon has earned many “first” titles. She entered Medium Industry Bank (current IBK) through the first ever female open recruitment and was also the first woman to be promoted to the first level. The title of first female regional director was also taken by Kwon. Three years ago when she was promoted as vice-chairwoman, she received attention for being the only female vice-chairwoman among all commercial banks. During the past 25 years of playing an active part in the field of business sales, she served in various high positions including the head of risk management unit, the head of Consumer Reaction Center and the head of credit card business unit.
After entering the bank, she has been making history for 35 years, but the process of becoming a bank CEO was not easy. 1987, the year she entered IBK after graduating Yonsei University’s Department of English Language and Literature, was a very conservative time when an invisible rule existed; marriage meant resignation. Banks didn’t assign main businesses such as loan or foreign exchange to female employees, so they could only work at the counter.
However, instead of blaming the circumstances, she steadily broke the glass ceiling through hard work. She lived in a whirl of business during the day and took the Korea Banking Institute’s training courses during the night. Even during public holidays, she studied while her children did homework. After completing the Korea Banking Institute’s education and studies for relevant licenses, she went to her branch manager and requested, “I’m ready for loan business.” And so she did. It was a moment the saying “chance favors only the prepared minds” came true.
As a working mother of two, she experienced many crises. Especially at times when her children were ill, she wanted to give up. On such occasions, her strongest supporter was her husband. She accentuates to other women who look up to her to “never give up.”
She stresses that gender differences are not an obstacle in the financial industry. Bank CEO Kwon revealed her aspirations saying “I will weather through all obstacles based on more embracing and inclusive philosophy with a sense of calling and principle.” As the role model of female financiers, she plans to prepare the ground for young women to grow by placing women in main business positions.