AT THE FOREFRONT

Thailand 2017 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Chartsiri Sophonpanich, President of Bangkok Bank, on the bank's extensive global network, opportunities in Myanmar, and his vision for the future of the bank.

Chartsiri Sophonpanich
BIOGRAPHY
Chartsiri Sophonpanich is President and Director of Bangkok Bank. Under his leadership, Bangkok Bank has expanded its operations and now has a local network of over 1,200 branches, around 240 business centers, and 16.5 million deposit accounts. The bank has 32 international branches in 15 economies, including wholly owned subsidiaries in China and Malaysia. 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 the Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Bangkok Bank is the top commercial bank in Thailand. How would you describe your customer base and services range?

Although we are particularly strong in corporate, SME, and international banking, we are an integrated financial services provider, operating across all customer segments and reaching all levels of Thai society. Our full range of services includes deposit taking, business and consumer credit extension, trade finance, project finance, loan syndication, debt securities underwriting, custodial services, capital market, and advisory services. We also provide investment and brokerage services through our subsidiaries BBL Asset Management and Bualuang Securities. Our customers benefit from the complementary synergies between our international, corporate, investment, business, and personal-banking services, provided through both physical premises and digital channels tailored to their needs.

What does ASEAN economic integration mean for your bank?

Since opening our first overseas branch in Hong Kong in 1954, we have grown with our customers' business overseas and now operate in 32 international locations in 15 economies worldwide. These include wholly owned, local subsidiary banks in China and Malaysia, which have organically grown. We support overseas Chinese business communities and Thai customers internationally, as well as local customers that invest and conduct business in their home countries and elsewhere. Our particular strengths are in Southeast Asia and greater China; however, we also have branches in the major financial centers of New York, London, and Tokyo. In the last 62 years of our international banking operations, we have come to know the countries covered by our network well; we understand their cultural differences and help to build bridges between clients and the private and public sectors. The formation of the AEC at the end of 2015 provides us with even greater opportunities to connect businesses and investors across the region, as well as support investors coming into Southeast Asia from other parts of the world. While we have no immediate plans to open new international branches, future expansion will reflect the needs of our customers, which we monitor closely at all times.

You are the first Thai bank, and one of the first international banks, to have received a banking license for Myanmar. What are your objectives in this country?

We are grateful for the opportunity to contribute to Myanmar's economic development by providing financial services for the benefit of its people, supporting the country and local banks in developing the financial sector. By sharing our expertise with domestic banks in areas such as credit assessment, risk management, and product innovation and cultivating long-term customer relationships, we can help strengthen Myanmar's entrepreneurial sector. Over the long run—as our experience in Thailand has shown—the emergence of a vibrant entrepreneurial base is the key to successful economic development. As a long-term partner, we have supported trade flows and FDI to Myanmar for many years, especially from Thailand, and we expect these to benefit further from having a branch in place. For our customers in Thailand and elsewhere, the new branch has enabled us to offer corporate banking products and services to those interested in investing or doing business in Myanmar, as well as supporting local entrepreneurs in their business endeavors.

How does fintech and digital banking factor into your vision for the future of the bank?

Crucially, we place a great deal of emphasis on digital banking, which we see as the future of the industry. Our award-winning mobile banking service is a key example. By providing a service that is secure, fast, and convenient for customers, we encourage them to adopt digital channels in support of the government's policy to reduce the reliance on cash and encourage electronic payments. The successful implementation of the government's National E-Payment Master Plan is expected to reduce the level of cash transactions, increase the efficiency of the payment infrastructure, improve business competitiveness, and promote financial inclusion. Bangkok Bank aims to be at the forefront of this significant change.