Thai Bank Considers Digital Makeover To Keep Up with Fintech

The oldest local Thai lender, Siam Commercial Bank Plc has announced its plans to revamp its financial technology to boost its products and services.

Siam Commercial Bank is reportedly modernizing its technology, specifically its digital payment platform, by partnering with tech giants Microsoft, International Business Machines (IBM), and Accenture. The century-old bank aims to create applications and brand them as a lifestyle apps that will suit all kinds of clients in their daily activities such as going to the cinema, eating out, and buying goods and services.

The chief executive officer of Siam Commercial Bank, Arthid Nanthawithaya was quoted in an interview saying that they want to go beyond the purpose of banking. He said, “I’m spending my time on every single detail of the new digital platform that we are going to launch very soon, in the next few months. What I want one day is that you’ll see SCB’s digital platform isn’t just a banking platform; this is how you reach out, this is how you gain customers.”

The move from Thailand’s oldest bank has been prompted by the fierce competition from other banks including Kasikornbank Plc who also have entered the digital fray.

However, the competition doesn’t end there. Non-banking digital payment platforms have been popping up online and it is causing a major rift between banks and potential clients. The ease and convenience that they provide have become a threat to the traditional banks.

The development of the new digital payment platform of Siam Commercial Bank is being processed at a time of reassessment in the institution. Mr Arthid confirms, “Further easing of regulations will open the gates for top global fintech providers such as Alibaba and Tencent. That fear and threat has woken up big Thai banks.”

This initiative is part of Siam Commercial Bank’s transformation into a tech-friendly firm. Last September, the famous bank announced that it has allocated $20 billion baht for technology upgrades which will be spread out within the coming two to three years.

Thailand’s CIMB Securities head of research, Kasem Prunratanamala, gave his two cents saying, “Early investment in digital banking will be costly with low return, but it’s a requirement for them to fend off any possible major disruption from non-bank fintech operators.”

While cash remains the prevailing means of transaction, online payments have skyrocketed in 2016 with roughly 35 million baht in circulation. Siam Commercial Bank wants to get into this market before it’s too late.