South Korea's Woori Bank to open Frankfurt subsidiary ahead of Brexit

One of South Korea's biggest banks will open a subsidiary in Frankfurt this autumn, making it the latest lender to commit to the German city in the wake of the Brexit vote.

Woori Bank currently offers wholesale and corporate banking services to clients through its London branch, which has been operating since 1978, but will soon extend those services through a Frankfurt subsidiary set to open later this year.

Woori already has a subsidiary in Poland, but is expanding its European operations to build relationships with South Korean businesses in Germany and also to ensure it can capture business on the continent no matter the outcome of Brexit negotiations.

A number of banks have announced similar contingency plans after Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed that Britain will ditch the single market, which would subsequently see City firms lose passporting rights that provide wide-ranging EU access for UK-based financial services firms.

The South Korean bank's decision to set up the subsidiary was made at the start of this year and will likely see it set up shop with five staff this autumn - all of which are expected to be new hires.

Woori's London office is set to continue operating as normal, with its 17 staff unlikely to face transfers.

Hubertus Vath, the managing director of city lobby group Frankfurt Main Finance (FMF), says he expects a total of 10,000 jobs to move to Frankfurt over the next five years, assuming that the European Banking Authority and euro clearing are moved to the German hub.

Mr Vath told the Press Association that his organisation is currently in ongoing discussions with more than 20 financial services firms about potential moves to Frankfurt.

"We have at least three, four, five exchanges a week and more or less a stable universe of roughly two dozen financial services companies which regularly consult us," he said, adding that a number of those talks are with firms with no presence inside Germany.

"Some have small operations, or some have a rep office, and they think about expanding," he added.

"We see the biggest interest from the US, from the European banks and from Asia - Japan, Korea, China - and now slowly we see also increasing interest from South Asia as well as from the Middle East and Latin America."

Japanese bank Daiwa earlier this week confirmed that it had settled on Frankfurt as the location for its new EU subsidiary, with plans to submit its license application to German regulator Bafin by year-end.

Nomura is also on track to expand its operations in Frankfurt, and Standard Chartered confirmed last month that it had contacted the regulator about setting up a subsidiary in the city where it already has a presence and employs "a small number of colleagues".

Others such as JP Morgan, which currently has 16,000 staff in the UK, is to ramp up operations at a number of its EU sites, with plans to move up to 1,000 London jobs to offices in Frankfurt, Luxembourg and Dublin in light of Brexit.

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