S. Korea wary of greater market volatility over Silicon Valley Bank failure

March 15, 2023

The collapse of the United States’ Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) could heighten volatility and uncertainties in the financial market, South Korea’s finance ministry said Sunday, vowing to beef up monitoring and swift responses to minimize potential impacts on the economy.

On Friday, U.S. banking regulators shut down the startup-focused lender SVB Financial Group and took control of its customer deposits in the largest failure of a U.S. bank since the 2008 financial crisis.

The issue was a key agenda item of the Sunday meeting between South Korea’s Finance Minister Choo Kyung-ho and top economic policymakers — Lee Seung-heon, deputy chief of the Bank of Korea; Kim Joo-hyun, the chair of the Financial Services Commission; Lee Bok-hyun, chief of the Financial Supervisory Service; and Choi Sang-mok, senior presidential secretary for economic affairs.

“We cannot rule out the possibility of greater market volatility and uncertainties caused by the bank’s liquidity crisis and the shutdown,” the ministry said in a message released after the meeting.

Experts widely expect the case not to spread further and cause damage to the U.S. banking and financial systems, but it could still affect the global and domestic financial market and the real economy at a time when the global market is highly volatile due to aggressive monetary tightening by major economies, the message read.

“The government and the related agencies will closely monitor the situation around-the-clock, and react swiftly, if needed, to prevent the case from affecting our economy,” the ministry said.

Meanwhile, the National Pension Service (NPS), the country’s state pension fund operator, had held some 100,000 shares of SVB Financial Group as of the end of last year, according to a regulatory filing with the U.S. Stock Exchange Commission.

The value of its stockholding had been at some US$23.2 million as of end-last year. Trading of SVB shares has been suspended due to the SVB collapse.

The NPS said it is reviewing measures to cope with the impact of the bank’s failure on its investment portfolio.