Pipit Aneaknithi, president of Kasikornbank, presents the bank’s cyber risk management plan in March 2020. (Photo: Kasikornbank)
One of Thailand’s largest lenders is on an overseas hiring blitz for jobs in technology and digital banking, as it boosts a regional expansion strategy to counter slowing domestic growth.
Kasikornbank Plc expects to increase staff at its overseas operations to about 2,800 by the end of next year, up from about 900 currently, according to co-president Pipit Aneaknithi. It’s part of a growth strategy abroad — that includes lifting its stake in PT Bank Maspion Indonesia — that’s seeking to boost international revenue to more than 5% in 2023 from less than 1% now, he said.
“Regional expansion will be our most exciting story as countries such as Vietnam and Indonesia have very big potential,” Mr Pipit said in an interview. “Those countries have young populations and high economic growth with plenty of room for growth of the banking industry.”
Thailand’s lenders are committing more resources to overseas businesses as an aging population, slowing growth and rising competition from technology companies hurt demand at home. Still, rising interest rates are helping to improve the outlook for loans and net interest margins.
Kasikornbank, Thailand’s second-biggest bank by assets, has its primary overseas operations in China, where an economic slowdown is likely to have some impact on growth, according to Mr Pipit. China is also the bank’s technology and innovation center that helps it develop the digital banking platform for its regional expansion, he said.
Employee numbers have been declining at Kasikornbank every year since 2015 as a surge in online transactions prompted the bank and other lenders to close branches. The lender is in the process of seeking regulatory approval for its plan to raise its stake in Bank Maspion to more than 67.5% by investing as much as $220 million. The deal is expected to be completed in 2022, Mr Pipit reaffirmed.
“Kasikornbank could post sustainable longer-term growth as it continues to build levers across various pillars such as digital and regional expansion,” said Rena Kwok, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. The Bank Maspion investment “might provide access to the larger Indonesian market with higher growth dynamics, offering a chance for a higher return on investment.”
Expanding in Asia
New staff hires will focus mainly on the bank’s expansion in Vietnam and Indonesia, according to Mr Pipit. It would include the consolidation of Bank Maspion, which has about 800 employees, after it takes control, he said.
Kasikornbank plans to focus on rolling out mobile phone banking services to small businesses and individual customers, Mr Pipit said. In Vietnam, the bank started offering services after getting a license from the government in July.