Microwaved fish curry, beers, and… banking
You can no longer buy an automatically dispensed draft beer at a 7-Eleven in Thailand – the parent company removed the machines after a week because of complaints from law enforcement and protesters – but customers will soon be able to do their banking at the stores. The Bank of Thailand’s revised guidelines mean that 7-Eleven customers in the Kingdom will be able to access banking services like deposits and withdraws, and cash and cheque transfers – along with the bill and mobile phone payment services the chain already offers. That would be good news for rural people as the growth of brick-and-mortar banks slows and digital banking quickly becomes the norm. Under the new rules, the stores would become licenced agents of commercial banks.
Thailand has the second largest number of 7-Eleven stores in the world after Japan, with 10,268 locations. Parent company CP All has set a target of 13,000 stores in Thailand by 2021. In contrast, there are fewer than 7,000 commercial bank branches. In 2017, 223 commercial bank locations closed, while Siam Commercial Bank laid off nearly half its 27,000 employees.
“There’s no need for counters,” said Thanavath Phonvichai, an economist at Thai Chamber of Commerce University. “It reduces the cost of having so many branches. It’s like asking someone to work on the banks’ behalf.”