|▲ Seoul Credit Guarantee Foundation / Chairman Jeongkwan Han|
Landed in South Korea late January this year, novel coronoavirus is pushing small business owners to a corner of life and death. At the regular briefing held at the Seoul City hall building on March 25, Seoul Mayor Wonsoon Park said that the city would run emergency financial support measures for small business owners. And they are 1) increase of financial support on credit guarantee from 3.8 trillion won to 5.09 trillion won ($4.118 billion) 2) introducing a new type of credit guarantee product for self-employed 3) speedy execution of funds. All of these measures are done under the leadership of Jeongkwan Han, Chairman of the Seoul Credit Guarantee Foundation.
Decades of expertise in supporting small businesses
The Seoul Credit Guarantee Foundation set sail in June 1999. Since its establishment, the foundation has streamed 10 trillion won ($8.9 billion) into 800,000 small businesses in Seoul. It was September 2018 Han took the steering wheel. Starting as a mere clerk at the Korea Credit Guarantee Fund, he has provided his professional services for 32 years until retired as executive director recently. He is credited for his excellent role of relief pitcher in times of the South Korean financial crisis in 1997 in particular and numerous global financial crises followed thereafter. So his newly appointed captain’s role of the foundation is but only appropriate.
<Future Vision 2022>
The first thing he did on taking the helm was to form a taskforce that will build a new paradigm for support policy of the foundation. He and his team had gathered opinions and suggestions from staff, clients and industry specialists for 4 months. And the result was <Future Vision 2022>, the foundation’s vision to provide ‘life cycle support’ instead of mere financial support. So, under its slogan ‘building the world’s best small business-friendly support platform’, the <Future Vision 2022> has brought up 53 detailed tasks to achieve.
The life cycle support
The life cycle support is run based on ‘one support center per one autonomous district’. After taking the helm, Han had increased 5 more centers to the then existing 17 centers within a year of his inauguration and a total of 25 is set to open by the end of this year. Behind this rapid increase laid the Mayor Park’s taking the <Future Vision 2022> as an official policy of the city for realistic plans and measures. Han said that he observed carefully Park’s one month living on a rooftop room in Samyang-dong, Gangbuk District, Seoul and he brought up this vision in accordance with Park’s determination to revive alley and village economies. *Rooftop room or house in South Korea is where the poor often dwells.
“As a result, the foundation’s lingering issues on hiring new employees were solved and we saw the biggest number of new employees in 2019. Alongside recruitment, promotions were also made according to performance. It is important to note that good services often come from good working environment” says Han.
From the year 2020, the existing centralized power of the foundation is deployed forefront of each autonomous district center and each center forms each consultative body by inviting merchants, public officers and academics. This will make all-in-one support easier and more efficient, according to Han.
“Also come along is ‘alley economy activation project’. We observed with keen eye that merchants in the initial 5 pilot districts (Gangbuk, Dobong, Seongdong, Sinseol-dong and Jungnang) showed great cooperation and participation after our consistent meeting, consulting and supporting facility improvement. In other words, we need to be at the field to listen to their difficulties, make note at the local consultative bodies and bring effective policies.”
40.5% businesses survive for 5 years
The all-in-one package services of the foundation include 1) startup package (training – consulting – initial capital) 2) one on one management consulting 3) cooperation between the businesses 4) business location analysis 5) support for business closure and restart. The foundation observed that 40.5% of those who received these services survived the businesses for 5 years. It is remarkable when compared to average national rate of 28.5%, a 12% higher. Much encouraged by this, Han targets to push the figure up to 50% in the coming years.
Partnering for urban regeneration
Gwanak District recently has set to work on ‘Gwanak byeolbit shisari renaissance, an urban regeneration project. And the foundation has joined as a partner for this 8 billion won ($6.4 million) project for its relevance to reviving alley and village economy. For this, the foundation has launched a team designed to support the project and starts its services from April this year. Chairman Han says that it is a good example of cooperation between residents, public officers, academics and the foundation.
Moving fast for COVID 19 hit small businesses
The Seoul Credit Guarantee Foundation is experiencing unprecedented number of inquires due to novel coronavirus that is putting a halt to local, regional, national and global economies. The foundation has dealt with 60,000 cases between January and March alone which is equivalent to the whole number of credit guarantee given out last year. To meet the flooding inquiries, the foundation has joined hands with Seoul Metropolitan City and City Council and reinforced 300 additional workforces for fast screening and payment. Most of them worked for financial firms or the Korea Credit Guarantee Fund before. Also, the foundation is working in cooperation with 8 financial firms for consulting and documentation. As a result, the number of desks for loan counseling has increased to 3,900 for the moment. The standard for loan also has been greatly eased for those who are affected hard by COVID 19.
<Future Value Evaluation>
When serving for the Korea Credit Guarantee Fund, Han was often asked from CEOs of their growth potential. Realizing that there wasn’t any method to evaluate one’s business regarding to these requests, Han extracted 28 items from 289 corporate research resources. Thus born was <Future Value Evaluation>.
“I applied this self-made evaluation model to numerous businesses and I saw delinquency rate reduced by 1% during a 5 year period. In other words, the model was equipped me to focus my fire onto businesses with high growth potential. And the core of this evaluation is but listening carefully to the needs and wants of clients.”
Customer-centered, professionalism, trust and challenge
Under the leadership of Han and his management motto ‘customer-centered, professionalism, trust and challenge’, the Seoul Credit Guarantee Foundation enjoyed the honor of receiving the first grade administrative assessment carried out by Seoul Metropolitan City last year. The foundation scored highest for the life cycle support and innovative management system. Apart from the honor, the foundation has won numerous prizes in various competitions and assessments including No.1 at the integrity assessment by the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission in 2019 and a presidential prize at the Korea Small Businesses Fair 2019.
“I personally value our No.1 status on the integrity assessment above any other prizes. I remind all of my staff of importance of integrity and fairness when executing their duty. And I’m proud of my staff that for the last 20 years, there has not a single reported case of corruption in the Seoul Credit Guarantee Foundation.”
Making dream of small business owners come true
As the captain of the Seoul Credit Guarantee Foundation, Han encourages two virtuous work philosophies: social value-driven and human rights-driven. Social value-driven embraces socially vulnerable and underprivileged and human rights-driven promotes respectable organizational culture.
“Bearing these in mind, it is our job to make dream of all small business owners come true through our attention to detail and respectable services.”
<PowerKorea> sends a message of support.
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