tai panich

SCB 10X, the venture investment arm of Siam Commercial Bank, is exploring the developments which could reshape how we do banking. Tai Panich, CEO and chief investment officer of SCB 10X, tells Kimberley Long about her plans. 

Tai Panich, CEO and chief investment officer of SCB 10X, was appointed as CEO to the venture investment arm of Siam Commercial Bank in August 2022. She previously served as chief venture and investment officer. Ms Panich spoke with The Banker as part of the Disruptive Voices podcast series, which highlights the work done by women across the fintech sector and the challenges they have faced in their careers. 

Q: Cryptocurrencies, along with Web3 and decentralised finance (DeFi), are a strategic focus of SCB 10X. What are the goals of SCB 10X in this developing space? 

A: We are the digital technology investment and venture building arm of Siam Commercial Bank. Our goal is to prepare the bank for the future, when the banking and financial services industry will look quite different from now. We are looking for the potential disruptors that will come into the industry, as well as preparing the bank for the changes. 

When we started SCB 10X at the beginning of 2020, we looked at different areas that could disrupt the bank. We focused on five key areas: fintech, future of work and lifestyle, health and wellness, Internet of Things and deep tech, as we believed these would be the areas which could be most significantly disrupted. Within fintech, we looked at blockchain and DeFi. In the 17 years that I have been doing tech investing, I have never seen anything like DeFi. 

DeFi companies can have as few as 10 members of staff and they can build crypto banks which have $10bn in the system, making them incredibly efficient. We realised that DeFi has everything that traditional finance has — it can be trading, derivatives, asset management, insurance, credit and lending, etc.

We also realised that we needed to focus, or we could be completely disrupted by these crypto banks. They could disintermediate the intermediary banks and have the two counterparties of the lender and the borrower doing all their activities directly together through smart contracts, deciding the interest rates, what needs to be paid and the collateral. 

When we look at an incumbent bank, the cost-to-income ratio could be as high as 60%, but it could be less than 10% for a DeFi crypto bank. This is potentially very disruptive to us. Our goal is to prepare the bank for what may be to come. 

Q: Alongside your promotion to CEO, Pailin Vichakul was named chief operating officer. How common is it to see two women in senior roles in the crypto space in Asia? Do you see more opportunities opening up? 

A: It is not common to see two women in a management position in the crypto space in Asia, or even globally. Personally, it doesn’t matter what gender the people in my team are. Pailin is very strong in investment and very capable. She was promoted due to her capability.

Sixty percent of the venture capital team are female, which is high compared with other groups we have seen. It is composed of women who are very good at analysing start-ups and deciding why we should invest in them. 

unlike other sectors the crypto space is very welcoming to all

In general, I think the crypto space is very welcoming. I have always worked in male-dominated industries; [for example] I worked as an engineer at a Silicon Valley start-up where I was one of only three women on a team of 125.

After this, I made the career transition into investment management. At a hedge fund, I was — again — one of only a few female portfolio managers. When I made the change again into crypto, I found that unlike other sectors the crypto space is very welcoming to all — I think because of the ethos of being open and inclusive. When we talk to the industry, it is always welcoming and inclusive. 

Q: How is SCB 10X trying to bring more people into the crypto space? 

A: We’re trying to create awareness and educate people that crypto is here for the long term, rather than trying to be speculative and make short-term gains.

We do activities beyond investing — we host conferences and invite founders and venture capitalists within the crypto space. The event is open to the public to let them come and listen, so they can learn about the space and understand how fascinating the technology is. They can learn the details from the people who are building the space. We also host a hackathon three times a year to build a community of developers who can build with us or our partners. We hosted our conference for the third time in July 2022. Even in the ‘crypto winter’, we will continue to host these events. 

We also look to educate the next generation on how to work within crypto. We work with university students to teach them how to write a smart contract and how to build a project in Web3, because we believe that teaching university students and young people how to code is the best thing we can do to develop the talent in the industry. It is such a new industry that there are few people who can be considered experts. 

We are here because we really do believe in crypto and blockchain as the future of a much more efficient financial system. We want to be part of it, and we want to see our bank learn, to adapt, to partner and to integrate with the right players in the space.  

From the gender perspective, we have always had a lot of support from both male and female founders. We always felt welcome as the space is so new and the space is moving fast, so people are looking for partners they can collaborate with to expand the ecosystem. We have always found partners to build and develop with. 

Q: Do you think that developments and crypto in the metaverse are being designed to help to work for women? And is there anything being created specifically to tackle the barriers women face in traditional banking and investing?

A: There’s a lot of build going on, and it’s very welcoming for anyone to come in. In general, I think women might feel intimidated about the crypto space, because it’s quite technical. But the space is still super new and evolving very fast.

If you were an expert in the crypto space two years ago, now you might find it has changed dramatically, or even become disrupted, and you have to learn new protocols or new tech. I feel that even though we have been in space for three years, we constantly have to learn new things.

It’s an industry people can join and we can learn together. There is a lot of material available from research to podcasts, so people can find their own way to learn. Anyone who is interested should just jump in. The technology is fascinating, and it could have as much of an impact as we saw with the arrival of the internet. 

At the moment, it is a blank canvas, so it is possible to develop the space to be used to benefit the real world. Crypto now is about trading and investing, but for the institutional investors it has to have a real world use cases that could bring non-crypto people into the space. We have started to see this, but it moves quite slow. We need people to be patient about it.


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