by Kamol Kamoltrakul
Bangkok Bank Ready for Opportunities Offered by Belt and Road Initiative
In October 2013, during his visit to Indonesia, Chinese President Xi Jinping introduced the “21st Century Maritime Silk Road” concept, which along with the Silk Road Economic Belt constitutes the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative. The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and 2014 establishment of the “Mekong-Lancang Mechanism” laid out the basic framework of OBOR between China and ASEAN.
From Southeast Asia to Eastern Europe and Africa, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) includes 71 countries that account for half the world’s population and a quarter of global GDP.
This framework not only opens opportunities for trading and investment, but also for the banking sector.
Bangkok Bank president Chartsiri Sophonpanich, a graduate of MIT Sloan School of Management, representing the third generation of the major BBL shareholders following in the footsteps of Chin and Chatri Sophonpanich, said in a recent interview, “Thailand has a special role to play as a regional finance, supply chain and logistics hub. We see the Belt and Road Initiative and AEC creating tremendous opportunities for our customers, and we plan to tap into this as Thailand’s leading regional bank.”
Chartsiri went on to say that in addition to the bank’s nationwide network of more than 1,200 branches, 240 business centers and business desks, Bangkok Bank also has the largest overseas branch network of any Thai bank with 32 branches in 15 markets, including wholly owned subsidiaries in China and Malaysia. With 16 branches in nine ASEAN countries and six branches in China, the bank is well positioned to benefit from regional economic integration following the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and the strengthening of the economic relationship between ASEAN and China.
Chartsiri is confident that Bangkok Bank, as the largest commercial bank in Thailand and one of the largest regional banks in Southeast Asia, is well positioned to better serve their customers.
“Our international network strategy is to expand in areas where we see high growth and strengthen our position as a leading regional bank. China is Thailand’s biggest trading partner, and Chinese investment in Thailand and Southeast Asia is growing rapidly.”
He explained further that the bank’s subsidiary Bangkok Bank (China) became a yuan clearing bank last year while, in March, Bangkok Bank was also appointed as a cross-currency dealer for the settlement of ringgit and baht for customers in Thailand and Malaysia. It is believed these moves will smooth customers’ financial transactions across the region and reinforce the bank’s position as the leading global player in Thai baht transactions.
Chartsiri believes the AEC is one of the fastest-growing regions in the world offering enormous potential, and recognizing this, China is accelerating its investment. Furthermore, China is Thailand’s biggest trading partner while Chinese investment in Thailand and Southeast Asia is growing rapidly. Moreover, Thailand has a special role to play as a regional finance, supply chain and logistics hub. This is seen as a tremendous opportunity for BBL customers, and the bank plans to tap into this as Thailand’s leading regional bank.