South Korean telco KT's new CEO on priorities and strategy

New KT CEO Kim Young-Shub / Credit: LG CNS
KT Group’s new CEO Kim Young-Shub to focus on expert skills, a culture of unity and acquisition of AI startups as telco continues transformation to techco

Just hours into taking the helm of KT, new CEO Kim Young-Shub was laying out the strategy for South Korea’s largest telco. 

Following a six-month-long search, the former head of LG CNS was selected for KT’s top job – not just for his corporate management and ICT expertise, but because he presented a “clear vision for KT to grow as a global digital platform company in a rapidly changing environment”, according Chairman Yoon Jong-Soo. 

“He was seen as the best person to grow KT into a global digital platform firm based on his abundant expertise in ICT and digital transformation, and essence-oriented growth and innovative management.”

And that ‘clear vision’ was communicated at the recent inauguration of Kim, during a town hall meeting broadcast live to all KT Group companies and employees.

As CEO, Kim outlined his strategic framework for the company, which focuses on solidifying its position in the ICT sector – telling employees that growth would be “achieved by leveraging our ICT expertise”.

“I will help KT take the lead in combining our business with IT and expanding our capabilities,” he said – adding that it was necessary to accumulate equal IT capabilities in big tech-led areas like AI and secure the initiative in emerging sectors such as smart cities, the metaverse and digital healthcare.

KT Corp transforming from telco to digital services platform

KT, which privatised from government ownership in 2001, has been diversifying its business portfolio since declaring in 2020 a strategy to transform from a traditional telco into a digital platform service provider.

And it’s a transformation that is bearing fruit with KT recently announcing a better-than-expected financial performance in the second quarter of 2023. Operating profit rose 25.5% YoY to US$441 million, the highest in any quarter since 2011; and according to market tracker FnGuide, KT’s sales revenue this year is estimated at US$20 billion.

The transformation to date, led by former CEO Ku Kyeon-mo, has focused on services led by AI and big data.

And KT's latest investments and partnerships announced as Kim took the helm reflect this continued focus on large-scale AI with KT investing US$7.52 million each in two local startups, Upstage and Qanda. This follows investments over the last year in AI chip startup Rebellions and another AI software company.

During his inauguration speech, Kim promised to improve the company’s structure by further strengthening partnerships and making even more investments in startups.

KT Corp.'s new CEO, Kim Young-shub, at the M360 APAC event in Seoul / Credit: KT Corp

KT strategy – focus and priorities

While Kim ruled out a large-scale reshuffling this year, he did point to key areas where he planned to deliver a higher level of focus – namely on customers, expertise, sustainable growth, and a culture of unity.

Differentiated customer value – a mandate to address customer needs and pain points and strengthen the core telecom business while improving ICT competitiveness

Expertise – outlining the need for expertise, and especially in stable network operations, Kim urged a focus on key personnel with outstanding skills, whatever their age or position

Sustainable growth – to be achieved by boosting the fundamentals of the telecoms and ICT businesses and aiming for tangible results as opposed to “making moderate compromises to make numbers”

Culture of unity – Kim called for a culture of mutual respect and collaborative thinking, urging leaders not to be influenced by short-term gains and stressed the role of management in fostering such a culture

Who is Kim Young-Shub?

While Kim clearly has a lot on his plate, he is no stranger to corporate leadership or restructures.

Known for streamlining organisational structure and boosting efficiency, Kim has undertaken a number of company restructures and has extensive corporate management experience – not to mention IT expertise.

As the former CEO of LG CNS, the LG conglomerate’s IT services affiliate, for seven years, Kim significantly improved sales and operating profits and led the digital innovation ecosystem.  

He also served as CFO of LG Uplus.

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