Bangkok Bank demonstrated its optimism in Myanmar’s economic potential through the injection of US$200 million (Bt6.75 billion) into its Yangon branch, a bigger sum than what was brought in by the four foreign banks that have already opened branches here.
“This will help us service our customers further, not only in terms of funding but also by serving the requirements of our customers. It can be in various forms – either trade finance or short-term or long-term loans,” said Chaiyarit Anuchitworawong, BBL’s executive vice president and co-head of its international banking group.
BBL is the fifth foreign bank to open a branch in Myanmar, among nine international banks that received licences to do so last October. Already open are branches of Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp, and United Overseas Bank.
Industrial and Commercial Bank of China won permission last week to open a branch, while the remaining three – ANZ, Maybank and Mizuho Bank – are expected to get permission in the coming months.
While all four of the other banks have set up their branches inside existing office buildings, BBL will operate from a colonial house serving as a standalone facility.
BBL, which has been operating through a representative office in Myanmar for 25 years, is the only Thai bank winning the licence. In total, four Thai banks vied for licences in the second round.
Chaiyarit said the Yangon branch would connect with BBL’s international network to provide a fuller range of services to customers doing business in Myanmar.
“It is a big step for us. As Asean is one of the most promising economic blocs in the world, we have been opening branches in other member countries of Asean. Myanmar is the ninth country,” he said.
“We have such a strong passion for the country because Thailand and Myanmar are close neighbours and in terms of trade and investment, Thailand has been a major trade partner of Myanmar. Our Yangon branch will be a good facilitator for trade, investment, and any other kinds of services.”
According to the Myanmar Directorate of Investment and Company Administration, as at the end of April, 48 projects from Thailand had invested $3.15 billion in the country, accounting for 6.78 per cent of total existing foreign investment. Thailand is the sixth-largest in terms of existing investment.
Chaiyarit said being on the ground helped the bank understand the market and culture, and this would allow it to satisfy customers’ needs and risk assessment.
The branch will provide a full range of financial services covering deposits, business lending trade services fund transfers and foreign-exchange services for foreign firms and domestic banks in both foreign currencies and kyat. It also plans to launch Internet banking and other sophisticated products.
To make the branch successful, Chaiyarit stressed the importance of strengthening cooperation with local banks. A number of memoranda of understanding have been signed with KBZ Bank, CB Bank and a few others, to promote mutual support.
According to Kanet Buranasin, BBL’s senior vice president and Yangon branch manager, local staff will also receive more training, as part of the knowledge transfers. They would learn when a customer needs to stop and when another must start work quickly.
“When we talk about our commitment, it is not just money but also contribution to the local community … The local staff will be advised on what they can do for the community. There may be something we have to learn from the community … We have to work together,” Kanet said.
Despite criticisms of slow changes in the country, Chaiyarit praised the Central Bank of Myanmar for its speedy work in the past few years, reflected through the relaxation of money-exchange rules. Last Friday, it allowed the exchange of baht and Malaysian ringgit, on top of the US dollar, the Singapore dollar and the euro.
“In the first decade of our presence here, we rarely saw changes. But during the past five years, things have been changing very rapidly,” Chaiyarit said.
“The central bank is very efficient, forward-looking, and open to opinions. Certainly, different countries may have their own aspirations, but as a member of the community, it is important for us to share what we have. It is evolutionary and developing. Going slowly and efficiently … that is a very good trend.”
Source: Eleven Media