South Korea's four largest banking groups plan to step up efforts to expand their insurance units in a bid to bolster their non-bank businesses, sources said Sunday.
According to the industry sources, the country's top four banking groups -- Woori Finance Holdings Co., KB Financial Group Inc., Shinhan Financial Group Co. and Hana Financial Group Inc. -- plan to reinforce their insurance affiliates' sales networks and workforces as part of their efforts to diversify profit sources.
KB Financial Group, the parent of top lender Kookmin Bank, is set to increase the number of its insurance affiliates' branches by five-fold by 2013. The company also aims to employ more than 2,000 insurance consultants.
The move comes after group chairman Euh Yoon-dae said earlier this month that the company may consider purchasing a life insurance company in a bid to strengthen the group's non-bank business, which accounts for around 20 percent of its business portfolio.
Shinhan Financial Group is also set to hire more than 1,000 employees to reinforce its insurance unit, which ranks as the country's No. 4 life insurer.
Meanwhile, Woori Finance Holdings is set to open seven new branches this year and hire around 50 new employees, according to the sources. The state-run banking group operates Woori Aviva Life Insurance Co. in partnership with Britain's insurance giant Aviva Plc.
Hana Financial Group, which has teamed up with Britain's HSBC Holdings Plc., also plans to gradually expand its insurance sales channel.
"Local banking groups need to foster their non-bank businesses, since their dependence on bank units is excessive. Forging ties with overseas insurers could be one way to effectively expand their insurance sales channels," said an industry official.