Confidence is rare in South Korea's financial markets these days. So the success of Kim Jung Tae, 50, president and CEO of Dongwon Securities Co., is remarkable. While other big brokerages have closed, Dongwon is afloat--and profitable. Investors have poured $1 billion into its mutual funds.

Kim has kept investors' trust by running against Korea's business currents. When competitors rushed to expand, Kim limited Dongwon branches. His management style is a departure as well: Instead of rewarding seniority, Kim rewards achievement, paying top employees 10% more than he gets. "The steps I have taken are norms in the West. I was implementing what should have been put in place some time ago," he says.

Most Koreans stick with one company for life. Kim's resume includes banks, securities firms, and a venture-capital outfit. Asians could learn much from Kim as they claw out of crisis.

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