PROVIDING CONNECTIVITY

Thailand 2017 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Darren N. Buckley, Country Head of Citibank and former President of AMCHAM Thailand, on the TPP and working with corporate clients.

Darren N. Buckley
BIOGRAPHY
Darren Buckley is the Country Head and Citi Country Officer of Citi Thailand, where he has been since 2012. He also oversees Citi’s business activity in Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar, and in Thailand is President Emeritus of the Board of Governors of the American Chamber of Commerce, President of the AMCHAM Charitable Foundation, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Association of International Banks, Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Board of Trade, and on the Board of the Foundation of International Education.

What benefits would Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) membership bring to the Thai economy and US firms operating here?

The TPP is more than just a free trade agreement; it includes many important elements such as requirements over labor rights, human rights, the environment, and other social issues. Assuming the ratification process of the various countries sail through, Thailand stands to lose considerably by not signing up—a significant volume of Thailand's exports go to TPP-member countries. If Thailand were on the outside of such an agreement, it could put local manufacturers and Thai companies at a potential disadvantage in trading compared to others in TPP member states. AMCHAM certainly believes it would be beneficial for Thailand if it joined the TPP, and it would also be beneficial for US companies investing here. US businesses have invested significant amounts of money in Thailand—we estimate about USD50 billion, creating approximately a quarter of a million jobs locally.

How has AMCHAM helped facilitate US investment into Thailand?

AMCHAM provides comprehensive advice and guidance to US businesses that express an interest in Thailand. We also provide connectivity between the Thai and US governments, as well as a network of established US businesses here. In 2015, AMCHAM held over 330 events for our members. Many of these events were organized by AMCHAM's over 25 committees, which cover various business sectors such as auto, energy, healthcare, travel and tourism, food and agriculture, and ICT, as well as special interest areas ranging from legal, to marketing, to community engagement. Companies can sign up to learn more, and use these events as a way to build their networks, seek assistance, share opinions, and try to lobby the Thai or US governments for greater support. There are many issues that are common among all foreign investors in Thailand, and AMCHAM coordinates with the JFCCT and other Chambers on these issues too. Examples of such issues on which we collaborate include things like intellectual property rights, customs, data privacy, and visas/work permits. AMCHAM is strongly supported by its over 800 member companies and is a well-funded chamber. It uses its resources to contribute to the local community, and to try to find ways to improve the Thai economy, and in so doing the investment prospects for US businesses.

How important is the corporate segment of Citibank's services in Thailand?

Our business is evenly split between our institutional and consumer businesses. In terms of our institutional business, we support government and quasi-government entities, top-tier local corporates, and local multinationals. Citi's competitive advantage is the fact that we can support our clients directly across 160 countries around the world. We are physically present with on-shore banking resources in 101 countries, so we can connect our clients seamlessly on a global basis in a way other banks cannot, even those deemed to be “global." It would be impossible in today's regulatory environment to build the type of network that Citi has. Naturally, that leads us to the types of clients that will have operations in multiple countries. We are unlikely to be the best bank for you if you only operate in one country. For instance, we are the global cash management bank for Thai Airways; we support it across the over 40 countries in which it has a presence. We support a number of top local Thai companies with their business around the world with advisory services, funding and liquidity, foreign exchange, hedging, and other services. We do the same for global multinationals that are based here in Thailand. But our institutional business has synergies with our consumer business, too. The key decision makers at our corporate clients also tend to be globally minded high net worth individuals who benefit from our wealth management and premium card services, as well as our ability to connect retail clients through our online and mobile technology to Citi accounts around the world. And if companies are with one of our multinational clients moving to Thailand, we can set them up seamlessly with consumer banking services here and avoid the hassle of sorting out personal financial affairs when moving to a new country.