July 21, 2014 00:00 By KHINE KYAW, ACHARA DEBOONME
ALL FOUR THAI banks in Myanmar are intensifying their efforts to secure banking licences in the belief that opening up of the industry will proceed despite opposition for local players.
Representatives of Kasikornbank (KBank) and Krungthai Bank (KTB) recently joined conferences in Yangon, speaking their minds on what their banks have to offer to the economy, while Bangkok Bank (BBL), Thailand’s largest commercial bank, hosted an investment seminar in Yangon designed to be the centre stage for Asian investors wanting to enter the Myanmar market.
Siam Commercial Bank (SCB) also brought in Myanmar experts to its “Myanmar 360-degree First Talk” seminar for 500 premium Thai customers with strong interest in expanding into the new market. They are part of the 25 foreign banks shortlisted for the licences, with potentially five to 10 to be awarded by year-end.
At a banking conference last week, Khin Chaw Su, KBZ Bank’s deputy managing director and head of transformation, said the banking industry should be reformed first because Myanmar is going through rapid change and a lot of FDI is needed for the nation’s sustainable growth.
Yet, unlike many other local bankers, he sees the benefit of newcomers.
“As for local banks, it is not really possible to finance big infrastructure projects. So I see foreign banks’ entry as sort of complementary to what we are doing so that they can help multinational companies come in.
“We can work together so that there will be more opportunities for structural financing as well as business matching,” he said.
The licensing agenda has stirred deep fears among local banks, which feel they are not ready to compete with regional or global rivals in all areas. Some also fear domination by foreign banks.
At the Myanmar Banking and Business Development Conference in Yangon from July 15-16, Kittiya Todhanakasem, KTB’s first senior executive vice president and managing director of the financial management group, assured them that there would be no such thing.
“Foreign banks, even though they may be very large globally in terms of the size of their market, won’t put all their assets into the country when they come to Myanmar,” Kittiya explained.
Foreign entrants may invest a limited amount of money in their operations in the Southeast Asian country. “And they don’t know everything [about the market] as local banks do. So the only thing is to work together.
“If we are fortunate enough to open [branches] here in Myanmar, we will further highlight our partnership with local banks,” Kittiay added.
More than 250 delegates from 16 countries attended the event, which brought together influential businessmen from the banking industry to discuss the future of Myanmar’s banking industry.
“In the overseas market, we are basically nobody. We don’t think that we can be everything to everybody. We have branches in Laos and Cambodia. We are quite happy with our contributions to the economies there,” Kittiya said.
KTB has received immense interest from Thai investors, but with a representative office, the bank can’t do much but be a liaison, she added. Hosting the “Bangkok Bank Brings Asia to Myanmar” conference in Yangon from July 17-19, the bank hopes to play a bigger part in bridging Asian investors and local businessmen, particularly those in the food and beverage, agriculture, construction, hotel and hospital, auto parts, plastic and chemical industries as well as the home decorative business.
President Chartsiri Sophon-panich said that in operating a rep office in Myanmar for nearly 20 years, BBL has received information requests from foreign branch customers, particularly in Japan and Singapore, on local development and trade prospects.
“Our long-established presence in Myanmar means our people on the ground have been working for us for a long time, know their markets well and are ideally placed to support customers and investors particularly in the growing economies of Southeast Asia.
“Our focus is to provide services that meet the needs of our customers, namely Thai customers growing their international presence, multinational companies with whom we have had a long and productive relationship, such as our Chinese customers in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia, and local customers in countries where we have a base,” Chartsiri said.