FINANCIAL PARTNER

Malaysia 2017 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Chartsiri Sophonpanich, President of Bangkok Bank, and Piti Sithi-Amnuai, Chairman of Bangkok Bank Berhad, on the bank's strategies for different markets and future plans.

Chartsiri Sophonpanich
BIOGRAPHY
Chartsiri Sophonpanich is President of Bangkok Bank. Sophonpanich holds a master’s degree in management from the Sloan School of Management, MIT, a master’s degree in chemical engineering from MIT, and a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
Piti Sithi-Amnuai
BIOGRAPHY
Piti Sithi-Amnuai is Chairman of Bangkok Bank Berhad, and a Director of Bangkok Bank. He was formerly the Chairman and Co-Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of Bangkok Bank. He has completed the Advanced Management Program from the Harvard Business School, Harvard University.

What is the importance of Malaysia to your bank?

Chartsiri Sophonpanich Our operation in Malaysia started as a branch in Kuala Lumpur with the aim of serving local clients and helping promote business flows between Malaysia and Thailand. Later, we incorporated the branch into a Malaysian entity as per Malaysia's regulatory requirements. Malaysia is an important trading partner of key economies in the world and also the AEC region. Thailand was the fifth top export destination of Malaysia in 2015, which presents ample opportunities for our Bangkok Bank Group to tap as intra-AEC region trade activities continue to grow. Through our AEC network, we support our Thai customers by encouraging them to participate in sectors promoted by the Malaysian government.

Which are your primary areas of focus in Malaysia?

Piti Sithi-Amnuai In Thailand, we are primarily a financial services provider for SMEs, and we also intend to grow in this area in Malaysia, concentrating on SMEs with capital structures of around MYR50 million. In Malaysia, we do not operate on the same scale as we do in Thailand; we have five branches here, including the head office. Consequently, we have to make smart choices. Going digital and creating solid mobile banking platforms is our strategic direction for future growth. We need to invest, learn, and build up partnerships with our customers. Our Malaysian clients include the Robert Kwok Group and the Genting Highland Group. Recently, we started to cater more to international clients in Malaysia whom we also serve in Thailand.

What are the key differences between corporate banking in Thailand and Malaysia?

CS Corporate banking in Thailand and Malaysia is similar in terms of a variety of products and services, advancement of technological platforms, challenges, and regulatory regime and requirements. Indeed, there is no apparent difference. Our overall strategy is to be a long-term and trusted partner of our target customers and seek to support them through thick and thin. Our Malaysian subsidiary bank, Bangkok Bank Berhad, strives to support our corporate customers' ventures outside of Malaysia and we are determined to attract new business. But above all else, our Malaysian entity exists to serve the banking needs of Malaysian business communities as the AEC develops further, recognizing that there will be greater investment into Malaysia, including from Thailand.

What are your ambitions and objectives for Bangkok Bank Berhad in the coming years?

PS-A It is my personal objective to enhance bilateral trade between Malaysia and Thailand in terms of agriculture and food, as I see enormous potential there. Malaysia has thousands of acres of palm oil plantations whilst Thailand is one of the world's largest rice producers. Together, both nations should be able to feed a quarter of the world's population. One of our clients in Bangkok has a fruit and vegetable market of around 10 acres, with a daily cash circulation of THB400-500 million. There is enormous potential in the food industry in both Malaysia and Thailand.

You have opened a new office in the center of the financial district of Kuala Lumpur. What are your ambitions for Bangkok Bank Berhad?

CS The new location will provide us with excellent opportunities to improve our visibility and enhance our presence, and at the same time broaden our customer base by connecting with the corporates located in the vicinity. This is an important move that will generate new corporate business for us, not just in the vicinity of the new office, but throughout Kuala Lumpur. The centralized location will also attract depositors from both the retail and corporate sectors, with spin-off benefits in credit business. The large size of the new office areas gives us potential for future expansion.