KADE an example of how tech-savvy Thais are returning home to serve their compatriots
At the launch of KADE, the latest innovation by Kasikorn Business Technology Group (KBTG) last week, what caught everyone’s eye was not only Kasikornbank’s big step forward in using new technology to sustain and explore its financing products and services, but their success in reversing the country’s brain drain phenomenon.
KBTG presented its dream team – young, ambitious Thais, who had walked away from lucrative overseas assignments to bring their skills to their homeland.
The K Plus AI-Driven Experience (KADE) aims to serve the bank’s vision to move from digital to intelligent (banking service). It is targeting 20 million users on its own life- and financial-related platform called K PLUS Intelligent Platform within the next five years.
KADE is expected to help KBank enhance its financial services with service, design, and machine intelligence to develop new services that will serve both its existing customers and unbanked people.
There are three principal visionary architects who lead the three main intelligence teams: Chetaphan Siridanupath, Joe – service intelligence; Apirut Vancha-Am, aka Art – design intelligence; and Thadpong Pongthawornkamol, aka Team – machine intelligence.
All of them worked abroad for some years but decided to return to their homeland to use their skills and experience in developing products and services that would improve Thais’ lives.
Thadpong – machine learning team lead:
Also known as Team, he worked at Google’s headquarters for many years before moving back to his home country a couple of years ago. His role at KBTG is to utilise machine learning technology, which he has explored while working at Google in Mountain View, California.
Thadpong was a scholarship student who graduated and then worked in the United States for many years. He has never worked in Thailand.
He met KBTG chairman Somkid Jiranuntarat, who persuaded him to work at KBTG after visiting Google two years ago. Once Team decided to return home with the passion to use his skill and experience to create products/services for Thais, he chose to join KBTG.
He said at KBTG there are a lot of jobs to be done and there is an “excellent team who speak the same language”. He desired to create “value” and to explore new technology for Thais.
“It is good there are problems that need to be tackled and it is good we can solve them for Thais. For example, Machine Lending, a lending service driven by machine learning technology, aims to give many more Thais the chance to access personal loans easily and conveniently. It is very beneficial to Thais,” said Thadpong.
Apart from utilising machine learning in new product/service development, Thadpong said he also enjoys setting up a developer community culture, including working, learning and experiment culture to get the team to move fast.
“I love working here where a lot of talent are closely working together. We are not a data-science company or a mobile developer, but we blend the cross-functional teams to help KBank smoothly do the digital transformation.
“KADE is our attempt to understand customers and know indepth who they are and what they want in order to address their needs effectively. We know how customers feel about our service UX/UI (user experience/ user interface). We blend data, machine and human beings to get product and service developers to understand customers; it is the big role of KADE,” said Thadpong.
Chetaphan – service intelligence team lead:
Chetaphan won a Japanese government student scholarship, graduated, and worked in the financial sector in Japan and Hong Kong for many years. He felt bored working in the comfort zone and wanted to move back to his home country, but he had no idea where. He was not sure which company could utilise his experience and competence until he met KBTG.
He joined KBTG because he believed in the company’s vision and soon realised that there were many jobs still needing to be done and he could still make an impact for Thais.
“The impact is not from the money perspective but the value a product can give to Thais. For example, KPlus driven by KADE will make the lives of 20 million Thais better, more comfortable, and easier, and that why this job is very interesting and challenging for me,” said Chetaphan.
“Now, KBank has 8 million digital banking users (KPLus users). We are number one in digital banking, but there is still huge room to grow. We have 8 million users, while Thailand’s population is 70 million, and Vietnam’s 90 million. We are not eyeing only the Thai market. In the next five to 10 years, there are a lot of challenges ahead of us,” said Chetaphan.
His role is to oversee the overall strategy for services. He leads the service intelligence team. He said service intelligence is “what”, design intelligence is “how”, and machine intelligence is “who, when and where”.
“The three teams will work closely together to create products/services with features and functions that serve and address customers’ needs and pain points,” said Chetaphan.
Apirut Vancha-Am — design intelligence team leader
Apirut worked as a consultant and was involved in research and development on artificial intelligence and machine learning abroad for many years. He moved back to Thailand and worked at IBM Thailand as consultant, taking care of KBank for seven years. When KBank set up its new company, KBTG, in 2016 he moved from IBM Thailand and now heads KBTG’s design intelligence team.
“KBTG gives me a chance to work on my core expertise – AI and machine learning – to create products/services that make Thai users happy and offer them more convenience. When they use it, it gives me happiness as well.” said Apirut.
He said now is a golden period for technology people like him to spend the rest of their lives creating innovations that benefit people.
“It is the first time that IT has changed from cost-centred back office to benefit-centred front office. It is the first time that IT is everywhere, in every business segment, and in people’s hands,” said Apirut.
Apirut said he joined KBTG as it is a technology company that is not led by technology. Technology is just a tool. The important thing is to understand how to make people’s lives better through technology.
“My personal mission is to balance the business sustainability of the bank and bring the benefit of technology to people. We have the same passion, which is to create value for people. Working with Joe and Team is a joy. We are the dream team driving the dream,” said Apirut.