Ham Young Joo KEB Hana Bank

The latest court ruling that acquitted Hana Financial Group chairman-nominee Ham Young-joo of being involved in an illegal employee hiring scandal has cleared him of any legal risk as he looks to take the helm of the nation’s third-largest financial group. Ham was tapped as the sole candidate for the post, Feb. 8.

On Friday, the Seoul Western District Court found Ham not guilty of charges that he unfairly influenced Hana Bank’s recruitment processes when he was CEO of the group’s flagship division in 2015.

A separate court decision awaits him, Monday, concerning a fiasco involving derivative-linked funds (DLFs) in which the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS) imposed sanctions against him in 2020 for mis-selling high-risk DLF products.

However, market observers expect Ham to be found not guilty, noting that Woori Financial Group Chairman Son Tae-seung won a similar case against the FSS last year.

“The court acquittal, Friday, has cleared a major legal hurdle for the nominee,” Hana Financial Group said in a statement, Sunday.

The trial lasted for more than three and half years, and has been considered a major stumbling block for Ham to be officially appointed for a three-year chairmanship during scheduled meetings of shareholders as well as the board of directors, March 25.

“We anticipate Ham to lead the group’s rapid growth and help to take a quantum leap,” the group added.

In a separate announcement after the court ruling, Ham said he will “thoroughly explain the outcome of the trial to shareholders” to ensure the March 25 meetings will go ahead undisrupted.

Meanwhile, Hana Financial Group is highlighting the nominee’s highly-decorated credentials as well as his character.

Born in 1956, Ham climbed his way from the bottom of the ladder to the top, after coming from extremely humble beginnings in the 1980s as a teller at Seoul Bank, a predecessor of Hana Bank.

A high school graduate and a son of a poor farmer in South Chungcheong Province, Ham had business acumen and insightfulness that pushed him to outpace university graduates and to be recognized for his management skills as he moved upward.

He was noted for the smooth operation and business rebranding of Hana Bank from September 2015 to March 2019, when he served as its CEO following the acquisition of Korea Exchange Bank (KEB).

Ham was promoted to Hana Financial Group vice chairman after serving as the banking arm’s CEO.

The group finds the successful integration between Hana Bank and KEB as a driving force behind the group’s explosive growth to date.

For instance, the net profit of the entire group surged 287.6 percent to 3.53 trillion won ($2.85 billion) between 2015 and 2021, while that of Hana Bank rose 165 percent to 2.57 trillion won during the same period.

In comparison, net profits of KB Financial Group increased 160 percent, Woori Financial Group, 144 percent, and Shinhan Financial Group, 70 percent, while those of KB Kookmin Bank rose 134 percent, Woori Bank, 131 percent and Shinhan Bank 67 percent.

The combined assets of Hana Financial Group stood at 653.4 trillion won in 2021, up 60 percent from 2015.

Between 2015 and 2021, Hana Financial Group posted a 376.9 percent increase rate of yearly dividends per share, outpacing KB’s 200 percent and Shinhan’s 63.3 percent.

The data for Woori Financial Group was not available.

Hana Financial Group surpassed the 3 trillion mark in net profit for the first time last year. Consequently, it aims to raise its target dividend payout ratio to 30 percent, up from the current 26 percent.

To diversify its business portfolios, the company plans to reap more than 30 percent of total profits from non-banking businesses by 2025.

At the same time, it wants its global businesses to account for more than 40 percent of total profits.