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First cafe-cum-bank opens in Seoul

March 28, 2016
Two customers talk to each other while waiting to handle their financial transactions in a Woori Bank outlet which opened a 'cafe in branch' in Yongsan, central Seoul, on March 28, 2016 in this photo provided by the bank. (Yonhap)

Two customers talk to each other while waiting to handle their financial transactions in a Woori Bank outlet which opened a ‘cafe in branch’ in Yongsan, central Seoul, on March 28, 2016 in this photo provided by the bank. (Yonhap)

SEOUL (Yonhap) — South Korea’s first cafe-cum-bank branch opened in Seoul Monday, underlying local lenders’ struggle to secure new profit sources amid their falling interest incomes.

Woori Bank has partnered with Maeil Dairies Industry Co. to launch the combination of a coffee shop in a bank branch office in Seoul’s Yongsan district, company officials said.

The bank is badly in need of new growth drivers amid low growth and low margin, while the dairy company is looking to promote its own ‘Paul Bassett’ coffee chain brand through the partnership.

They both expect to benefit from the collaborative “cafe in branch.”

“Customers may find their wait less boring over a cup of coffee at our bank outlets, while the outlets could expect a steady rental income from their business partners,” Woori Bank said in a statement.

“If the cafe-in-branch concept is well received among customers, we are planning to add more collaborative coffee shops in our bank outlets this year,” a bank spokesman said.

Maeil Dairies said the bank’s nationwide networks will help its Paul Bassett chain grow to compete with the multinational Starbucks or Coffee Bean brands in an extended partnership as consumers increasingly choose more premium hand-drip coffee over instant coffee mixes.

The Paul Bassett chain, launched in 2009, is directly operated by m’s seed Co., a wholly-owned unit of Maeil Dairies, with 69 shops currently in operation mainly in Seoul and the metropolitan areas. The homegrown coffee brand is named after the 2003 World Barista Championship winner Paul Bassett, who advises Maeil on selecting beans, roasting and extracting coffee.

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