|Woori Bank CEO Sohn Tae-seung|
The bank's board decided that Sohn should take on "double duty" as the chairman and chief executive of the holding company and Woori Bank, following the Financial Services Commission's (FSC) approval of the governance proposal.
Given the bank will continue to serve as the core business, accounting for more than 90 percent of the group's earnings until it starts boosting its nonbanking business through acquisitions, the board said Sohn was a good fit for the positions.
He will be officially appointed as chairman of Woori Financial Group, Dec. 28.
"Woori Bank will inevitably have to be the center of the group," a spokesman said. "After the discussions, the board saw the need to have the incumbent chief executive also head the holding company."
With 23 subsidiaries and affiliates at home and abroad, the group will make an official comeback in February 2019, and join other major holding companies such as KB, Shinhan and Hana.
This will come after Woori relists its shares here and its American depository receipt shares in January 2019.
As Sohn will run the financial group, he will have more capacity and freedom to seek and acquire other firms as a means to build the nonbanking business.
The bank has indicated the group will pursue acquisitions of brokerages and investment banks that could be later merged with Woori Investment Bank.
It would be particularly interested in "big" targets, rather than small and mid-size securities companies, according to Woori Bank.
As a financial holding company, it will be able to buy and invest in equities of bigger assets, as the law allows it to spend up to 130 percent of capital for equity investments and acquisitions. A bank is only allowed up to 20 percent.
Its other acquisition interests include real estate and asset management, which will be able to generate synergy with investment banking, Woori said.
However, before it starts looking for targets, the bank said reorganization tasks remained.
"Woori Card and Woori Investment Bank will have to move under the group," the spokesman said.
Woori Bank owns Woori Card and has a 59.83 percent stake in Woori Investment Bank, according to the bank's audit filing. Minority shareholders hold the rest in Woori Investment Bank listed on the KOSPI.
Woori Bank's key shareholders include the state-run Korea Deposit Insurance Corp. and the National Pension Service. Foreign investors hold 27 percent of the bank, which is seeking to increase this to a similar level of other financial holding companies ― 70 percent on average.
This is why Sohn has been traveling overseas to meet potential long-term institutional investors over the past months, the bank said.
Before becoming chief executive in 2017, he was head of the bank's global business unit.