The Saigon financial district across the water at sunset

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KBank is taking a mobile-first approach as it expands to Vietnam. Peter Janssen reports.

Thailand’s KasikornBank (KBank) is hoping to repeat its digital banking success in neighbouring Vietnam, albeit with only one brick-and-mortar outlet in the country (compared with 824 in Thailand).

KBank, ranked among Thailand’s top three banks by assets, received a banking licence to open a single branch in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s economic capital, in November 2021, after a long wait and postponements due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, being limited to one branch has not curtailed its ambitions.     

The bank aims to become one of Vietnam’s top 20 banks by assets, with an income of $400m and a customer base of 13.2 million, by 2027.

KBank executive vice-president Chat Luangarpa says the targets were based on the rapid growth of Vietnam’s banking system (15% over the past five years), the country’s rapid economic growth (an average 7% for 2015-2019) and its large and mainly youthful population of 100 million, most of whom are already digital literate.  

Of the $400m lending target, Mr Luangarpa says: “It’s only 1% of the market, so not that much.” Vietnam currently has 48 licensed commercial banks, with more than 28 smaller ones that hold 1% of the total credit market (about $500bn) or less. 

KBank, which is the leading mobile banking provider in Thailand, has benefitted from the State Bank of Vietnam decision to permit electronic know-your-customer checks, allowing banks to open new deposits without customers coming to the branch.

Upon opening in Vietnam in November 2021, KBank swiftly launched its KPlus cyber banking platform, a proprietary platform that has proved popular in Thailand. “Last year within nine to 10 months of launching KPlus we were able to grab almost 400,000 customers on the digital bank account,” says Mr Luangarpa.

now we have about 80 staff and we will expand it to hundreds

Chat Luangarpa

To date, only Vietnam’s largest, most professional banks have been pushing their digital services, but many of the smaller ones cannot yet afford the transition. For KBank, which set up its Kasikorn Business Technology Group (KBTG) to facilitate the bank’s digital transformation, the technology is easily transferred to Vietnam. 

In fact, KBTG is no stranger to Vietnam: it has been active in outsourcing IT innovations there for several years now and is familiar with its vibrant high-tech community.

“Once we got the licence, we decided to set up KBTC in Vietnam. Now we have about 80 staff and we will expand it to hundreds,” says Mr Luangarpa.


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