Companies cutting back as they face hard times
By Park Hyong-ki
Some credit card companies have begun procedures to cut back on anything they can in preparation for tough times ahead.
As they expect inevitable losses stemming from state-enforced reductions in card transaction fees, industry sources say they have no choice but to get "lean and mean."
Otherwise, they will have to suffer more pain later on if they do not take "belt-tightening" actions at this very moment.
Their cutbacks will have to start with reductions in manpower, whose wages are recorded as costs, or general expenses, in their income statements.
Companies such as Hyundai Card and KB Kookmin Card have already started accepting resignation letters from their employees wishing to find and explore new career opportunities, they said.
Their so-called voluntary retirement schemes were formed in late 2018 when the financial regulator came out with a lowered range of fees card companies have to charge small and self-employed businesses.
Hyundai Card said its main focus will be trying to making its business sustainable through cutbacks.
"It's a very concerning time for the industry whose business existence relied on profits from fees," said a Hyundai Card spokesman.
"We're going to zero in on developing a sustainable model in the face of challenges."
KB Kookmin Card is in the same situation.
It has started offering retirement benefit packages to its young managers in their 40s who want to explore other career options.
KB Card said it will also reduce some of its marketing costs, and pursue programs more thoroughly and carefully.
"We're going to close down some marketing programs and campaigns that have received lukewarm customer responses," said a KB Card spokeswoman.
"We will have to rely more on technologies such as artificial intelligence and data analysis to execute only the ones that will have a high chance in grabbing attention in this rapidly changing atmosphere."
Other card companies are looking outside the country for possible breakthroughs.
For instance, Lotte Card, which is for sale, has established a base in Vietnam as Chief Executive Kim Chang-kwon said it will help the company "diversify and develop new business" amid the uncertainty.
BC Card has also made inroads into Vietnam through a strategic partnership in payment systems.
It will offer its expertise in QR code settlements in the region and other Southeast Asian markets as BC CEO Lee Mun-hwan said that the "digital area" is where it can have a competitive advantage.
Industry sources say local card companies may not be able to enjoy a home-field advantage in Southeast Asia as they did at home.
"Their immediate best option would be forging ties and provide their best technology skills in developing digital payment networks and systems," said an industry source.