KBZ, MYANMAR’S first bank to have expanded internationally with presence in Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia, is aiming high to grow further in tandem with the growth of Asean, said Nang Lang Kham, the bank’s deputy chief executive officer.
She said in an interview that the growth of Asean has been quite fascinating thanks to the Asean Economic Community and the removal of tariffs that now ensures trade and investments in the region are more attractive.
“As KBZ Bank currently holds the largest market share of 40 per cent, it plays a significant role in the development of the national economy,” she said. “We believe economic empowerment and education are key to further growth of the regional economy.”
Established in 1994, the bank now has a workforce of 18,000 staff in more than 480 branches nationwide. Having a large pool of skilled, educated and empowered workers would positively affect the regional economy, as businesses look to expand regionally and invest in other Asean countries, she said.
“Internally, we practise a policy of inclusivity and non-gender discrimination, making opportunities available equally to all staff. In Myanmar, women make up 51 per cent of the population. If we are able to give them the tools, they can enter and advance in the workplace so that Myanmar’s pool of able, skilled workers and businesses will be exponentially increased,” she said.
“This will in turn increase the pool of consumers, and their consumption thresholds, thus boosting the national economy.”
On an organisational level, the bank makes it a point to support local entrepreneurs and businesses by providing required financial access and business counselling where needed. It also seeks to identify Myanmar’s best entrepreneurs and foster healthy competition through business contests.
The bank’s charity arm, the Brighter Future Myanmar Foundation, invests in nationwide community development projects and supports national-level social welfare efforts. To date, the group has invested nearly 130 billion Kyats for the betterment of the community.
As part of its international cooperation, the bank recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Export-Import Bank of Thailand to boost bilateral trade and investment.
The pact allows the banks to cooperate in a wide range of areas including project collaboration, information exchange, acting as agents for each other, sharing best practices and experience, potential training programmes and establishment of reciprocal credit lines.
Nang Lang Kham believes Myanmar can contribute to the growth of Asean because it has much to offer investors as a developing economy with untapped markets and rich resources. With the right partners in Asean, Myanmar can become an excellent manufacturing hub with advantageous access to major world markets in India and China, she said.
She considers small and medium enterprises, entrepreneurs and technology as the three main drivers of the Asean economy in years to come. Currently, SMEs accounted for nearly 99 per cent of businesses in Myanmar. Regionally, SMEs are responsible for between 50 to 95 per cent of employment, and contribute between 35 and 53 per cent of gross domestic product in Asean nations.
“SMEs are already driving economic growth, and I foresee this will be the case in the near future. Alongside SMEs, I expect entrepreneurs will be the thought leaders who drive innovations, and initiatives,” she said.
To her, the entrepreneurs are ideal change-makers as they are on the ground every day, and have a better perspective on the revolutions that are needed to make industries and communities work more effectively.
“Technology will be the chief platform where those SMEs and entrepreneurs will operate. The demand for mobile banking and other electronic services is already beginning, and this is where the next economic developments will stem from,” she said.