Bankers working bankers’ hours leave Koreans angry and upset
As banking hours are cut, some customers claim they are having trouble getting their banking done.
Some are protesting, especially as some branches are threatening to shut for lunch.
Kim Mi-jin, a 26-year-old office worker who works it Gangseo District, southern Seoul, had no choice but to make a U-turn shortly after entering a nearby bank. Her objective was simple — to raise the withdrawal limit on her bank account, but she turned back after hearing she had to wait an hour to do so.
Since she had to return to her work, Kim took a cab to find another branch.
“I had to wait 40 minutes in the next bank as well,” Kim said. “It’s difficult as it is to make time to go to a bank, but it’s getting harder to do so because the operating hours have been cut short.”
Banks have reported high profits as interest rates rise, but people are complaining that their service remains the same. The biggest complaint from the customers are that bank’s operating hours are too short. From a simple task such as receiving consultations for a loan to exchanging money, or reissuing their one-time password (OTP) devices, people say that they need to take a day off from work to make it to the bank.
Bank operating hours have been cut by an hour since 2021. The opening hours and closing hours have each been slashed 30 minutes. Banks now operate from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
“If I want to visit the bank for a loan, I have to take a half a day, or a full day off,” said office worker Yoon Hong-sik, 31 years old. “I don’t think the banks have any solutions for the customers who can’t properly resolve their tasks.”
“There are always customers who didn’t make it by the closing time,” said an anonymous bank worker at Sangam-dong, western Seoul. “I truly feel sorry for the customers. Even today, we had to turn away half of the customers waiting in line.”
Banks are not oblivious to escalating complaints.
The Korean Financial Industry Union and Korea Federation of Banks started their first round of meetings on Thursday to discuss the issue, but they did not reach any conclusions.
“When it’s no longer mandatory to wear masks indoors, then we’ll revisit the subject,” said Korea Financial Industry Union.
Banks are hesitant to make a change due to growing online banking market.
Instead of visiting the bank, customers use the financial services through mobile apps and phone calls. A survey done by Woori Finance Research Institute said that only 42.4 percent of those defined as being millennials or in Generation Z visit the bank in person.
“The majority of the customers at the bank were elderly, and I’ve seen some of them wait too long, give up, and head out,” said one customer.
Some of the commercial banks received more complaints for closing even during lunch time. KB Kookmin Bank will close during lunch hours at some of its smaller branches from Jan. 30.
Banks are also getting an earful about showering workers with performance-based benefits and severance pay rather than improving their service.
The government and the ruling party are pressuring banks to make a change.
“People seem to be going through a hard time because of the gap between deposit and loan interest rates,” said People Power Party’s (PPP) floor leader Joo Ho-young at the National Assembly’s emergency council on Thursday. Deputy speaker of the National Assembly Chung Woo-taik proposed a bill for banks to report the profit they gain from the gap in interest rates.
“Banks are saying that they even need to close during lunch hours when they’ve already reduced their operating hours by an hour due to social distancing,” criticized PPP’s Rep. Kim Mi-ae.
The chiefs of the Financial Supervisory Service and the Financial Services Commission have argued for banking hours to go back to status quo, each on separate occasions, at recent committee meetings.
BY IM SOUNG-BIN, SEO JI-WON [firstname.lastname@example.org]