TMB BANK Plc , which recently issued Thailand’s first green bonds, aims to lead the way in sustainable banking by doing business in a way that supports its customers as well as social development, environment protection and the uplifting of banking service standards, TMB Chief Executive Officer Piti Tantakasem has said.
“Banks often think that to operate, having a business licence from the central bank is enough when in fact the licence to operate really comes from the public,” Piti said. “Our belief at TMB is that an organisation must do the right thing to be sustainable.”
To ensure social acceptance, the bank's sustainability framework must cover all core areas: its organisation, industry, environment and society, he said.
In its organisational operations, the bank must support customers with technology and innovation and be sincere and transparent in addressing customers need for privacy as well as acquiring better IT systems, and better products and services, he said.
“Yes, we must continue to make profits, but customers must know when they pay fees,” Piti said. “To remain relevant to customers, banks must do better on what they are doing. That’s how we can win brand conviction.”
In term of environmental protection, TMB has started green lending some time ago and expects the support it recently received from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector lending arm of the World Bank, will allow it to expand its green lending portfolio and further encourage awareness in Thailand.
“The green bond issue, the first of its kind by a Thai commercial bank, underscores our commitment at TMB to drive business by implementing a sustainable business framework,” Piti said. “This also promotes private sector investment in renewable energy projects and energy efficiency, thereby helping to reduce global warming, beneficial to both the environment and the economy as a whole.”
The US$60 million (Bt1.85 billion) green bonds issued in June was entirely subscribed by the IFC. TMB will be using the proceeds to support smart climate projects and other environmentally friendly investments.
Green lending portfolio
TMB’s green lending portfolio currently stands at Bt8.5 billion ($280 million) and is expected to increase to Bt15 billion ($470) within the next 5 years. Customers include solar and other alternative energy projects, as well as the Yeh Group, a company that produce “DryDye” textile through a highly performant process that saves water and reduces energy and chemicals use by 50 per cent.
At the industry level, TMB like all banks have a duty to address important issues such as financial literacy and help address the high level of household debt and the insufficient level of household savings and investment, Piti said.
“This is a problem for the banking industry. We have to ask ourselves: Are we doing enough?” Piti said. “Digital technology can help unleash client’s potential when it comes to savings and investments.”
TMB contributes to driving common infrastructures, improving financial literacy and uplifting banking service standards through collaboration with the Thai Bankers' Association.
For instance, TMB is the leader of the association’s financial literacy initiative, in which volunteers from member banks join force to train senior undergraduate students to instill them with money management and financial knowledge before they enter the workforce. More than 1,000 students participated in the training so far.
At the society level, TMB has initiated the “FAI-FAH” youth development programme to ignite ideas for change among the children from low-income families and encourage them to improve themselves, their families and their communities.
TMB also carries out community development for sustainability projects where employees work closely with communities around Thailand to promote quality of life.
During the past three years, more than 100 communities have benefited from these projects.
Piti was invited to address the inaugural Bangkok Sustainable Banking Forum, which the Bank of Thailand held recently.
“A number of welcoming developments are taking place in our financial sector. But, much more can be done and need to be done to foster an ecosystem that promotes overall sustainability,” Veerathai Santiprabhob, governor of the Bank of Thailand told the forum in his opening speech.