Big Thai banks are flexing their muscles in neighbouring countries to be first movers and take advantage of the common market of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) in late 2015. Bangkok Bank (BBL), Thailand's biggest lender by assets, is seeking approval from Cambodian authorities to reopen a branch in Phnom Penh after an absence from the country for several years, said executive vice-chairman Deja Tulananda.
BBL's move is based on high growth potential in Cambodia, even though its economy is small compared with other Asean members. Corporate banking services for Thai, local and foreign customers are the key focus for BBL in Phnom Penh.
The bank is also considering a few more branches in Vietnam, where BBL has one branch in Ho Chi Minh City and another in Hanoi. But the bank needs a clearer grasp of the economic picture and local regulations before it makes a firm decision. BBL has also relocated its Vientiane branch in Laos to a bigger space in line with rising economic activity.
The bank has 27 branches and representative offices in 11 countries, including 13 branches and a representative office in Asean. Operating under a local banking licence, BBL has three branches in Malaysia, the most in the region. With the AEC's formation on the cards, cash-rich banks from Singapore and Malaysia have expanded aggressively, aiming to blanket the 10-nation region through a shortcut strategy of acquisitions. Thai banks have chosen a humbler path — organic growth — for their expansion.
Kasikornbank (KBank) president Predee Daochai said his bank is set to re-establish a presence in Laos by applying to reopen a Vientiane branch that had closed in recent years. Moreover, the bank is considering opening representative offices in Vietnam and Indonesia. Moreover, the bank is considering opening representative offices in Vietnam and Indonesia.
KBank, Thailand's fourth-biggest lender, has adjusted its branch model in China by opening subbranches in large provinces to improve accessibility to customers. The bank in the past opened only full branches. Krungthai Bank (KTB) plans to open more branches in the border areas to capture business arising from cross-border trade.
KTB now has eight branches in the border zones. It plans to upgrade a financial service centre on the Thailand-Cambodia border to a branch next month, said first senior executive vice-president Weidt Nuchjalern.
Siam Commercial Bank (SCB) recently said it preferred to open its own branches in Vietnam if the local government would allow it. SCB holds a 33% stake in Vinasiam, a joint venture bank in Vietnam.