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KBank in US$ 2.7 billion technology drive to expand banking to unbanked-underbanked Thais

KBank in US$ 2.7 billion technology drive to expand banking to unbanked-underbanked Thais

“We are championing simplification, speed, and a more sophisticated evaluation of small customers’ potential to be responsible borrowers so that the unbanked and underbanked can also benefit from banking products that can improve their lives and their businesses.”

Ms. Kattiya Indaravijaya, Chief Executive Officer, KASIKORNBANK

BANGKOK, July 12, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — KASINKORNBANK (KBank) has announced a US$ 2.7 billion strategic programme aimed at boosting access to banking services among Thailand’s unbanked and underbanked population as well as very small businesses and the self-employed. The programme includes accelerated investments in technology, technology-related acquisitions, commercial partnerships, organisational development, as well as adopting other technology-driven methods to boost access to banking services among a broader range of the public.

Ms. Kattiya Indaravijaya, Chief Executive Officer, KASIKORNBANK
Ms. Kattiya Indaravijaya, Chief Executive Officer, KASIKORNBANK

Ms. Kattiya Indaravijaya, Chief Executive Officer, KASIKORNBANK, said, “We’re taking a bold step, and, through technological leadership, aim to transform banking in Thailand in ways that can help more people enter the banking system and benefit from banking products and services.

“We’re already a bank that has the great strengths and reliability of a traditional bank serving a wide range of customers. What we’re now doing is to fuse on to that successful core the disruptive DNA of a ‘challenger bank’.”

Challenger banks have been a disruptive phenomenon in many countries ‘challenging’ legacy banks by using new technology to make banking products more accessible. Challenger banks have also appealed to traditional bank customers by eliminating cumbersome processes and providing faster services that are easy to use, available everywhere, and always-on.

“By fusing the DNA of a ‘challenger bank’, we want to be a bank that empowers a whole new generation of Thais, who are rich with ability and energy, to gain access to banking products and advice.

“We want to give more loans without collateral and based on a borrower’s real ability and intention to repay. We want to make it easier for everyone to apply from the privacy of their homes or offices. We want to remove processes and paperwork and to make things really simple. And we want it all to happen for the customer much, much faster.”

Ms. Indaravijaya said, “We have embarked on our strategic programme to fully harness emerging technologies to conduct more complete evaluations of a customer’s ability and willingness to pay back a loan.

“These more sophisticated evaluations of a small customer’s potential to be a responsible borrower will enable millions more individuals, the self-employed, and very small businesses to enter the banking system as well as free many from the debt trap of loan sharks who charge interest, often at over 200% a year.” 

INVESTMENT IN EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES / COLLABORATIONS / ACQUISITIONS

During this and the next two years, KBank is investing around US$ 610 million in new technology and systems, in addition to US$ 350 million invested during the last two years.

KBank disclosed that it also expects to complete, in the next 12 months, between two to five acquisitions and commercial collaborations with technology-related enterprises with investments of up to US$ 840 million.

THREE TRANSFORMATIONAL ‘FIRSTS’

  • KBank is now piloting specialised buy-now-pay-later loans for those who are self-employed or have no documents to prove their income, by evaluating their credit-worthiness on alternative data.In the last several months, KBank has been approving an average of 1,600 loan applications, daily, using this method, and the loan amount is usually at around US$ 40, with some cases going up to US$ 560.

    “We are the only bank to do this, and are very encouraged that many of these people are likely to have never been given a loan by a bank and are probably among the most vulnerable victims of loan-sharks. This first small loan becomes a bridge that helps them cross into the banking system. And, as they gain self-confidence in managing these loans and repay, they can gradually increase their loan size based on their performance, as well as be empowered with other, more specialised products,” Ms. Indaravijaya said.

  • KBank is also trialing ways in which to make obtaining loans fairer for micro enterprises as part of its ‘challenger bank’ goals.

    Because many of these types of enterprises do not have financial statements, they are almost always unable to obtain bank loans and are forced to turn to expensive, unofficial lending sources.

    “We are the first bank to reach out to these groups and allow them to obtain loans without any such documentation. We are doing it based on interviews and other technology-assisted assessments, and hope to extend the project beyond its preliminary phase, soonest,” she added.

  • Ms. Indaravijaya said that another important barrier to taking out bank loans for lower-income and self-employed groups is that they do not have the time to visit a bank branch or are not comfortable doing so.

    “To make it easier for them to enter the banking system we partnered with the LINE social media app, and are the only bank offering banking services through social media in Thailand. Even if an applicant has no bank account, our LINE BK app lets them apply for a loan and get a decision within 24 hours. And if they already have an account with KBank, they can complete an application and be given a decision in less than five minutes.

    “The LINE BK app is also enabling people to apply for loans even if they have no supporting documents. With an applicant’s consent, we can evaluate most cases by using algorithms and alternative data already available on their social media.”

    Based on its current userbase, around one in three successful borrowers through LINE BK are getting their first bank loan, ever; nearly half are self-employed, around half have income lower than US$ 420 a month, and almost 80% are in the provinces outside Bangkok.

    “By the end of this year, with just the LINE BK app, we hope to bring a further 200,000 people into the banking system by giving them their first bank loan. Through this channel, we also expect to extend loans totaling US$ 550 million to over 600,000 people and small businesses, freeing many from the need to consider borrowing from expensive unofficial sources,” she said.

BROADENING ACCESS UPCOUNTRY THROUGH MOM-AND-POP STORES

KBank is also working with a major retail group to give upcountry mom-and-pop store operators easier access to loans without collateral, as well as providing loans to the stores’ customers.

“By evaluating a store’s and its customers’ creditworthiness in non-traditional ways, and by making processes much simpler, within 2022, we aim to reach deep into upcountry through the partner’s thousands of stores. It will put us another big step closer to helping residents of small communities around Thailand gain access to banking services,” she said.

Note to Editor

As at 31 March 2022, KBank and its subsidiaries’ total assets were Baht 4,133,248 million, an increase of Baht 29,849 million or 0.73% over the end of 2021, ranking it the second in Thailand based on loan market share.

KBank is financially well positioned for the future with a capital ratio of 18.77% and a Liquidity Coverage Ratio (LCR) of 174%, and has sufficient loan loss reserve with Non-Performing Loan (NPL) coverage of 159%, as at December 2021.

KBank is listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) and is included in the SET 100 Index, the SET Thailand Sustainability Investment (THSI) Index, and the SET CLMV Exposure Index, and carries a Moody’s long-term rating at Baa1 Outlook Stable.

Where US Dollar figures are cited, the exchange rate calculations are approximate and rounded.