Mi­crowaved fish curry, beers, and… bank­ing

Southeast Asia Globe - - 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.”

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