Buasarot is a successful Thai businesswoman, a career banker,
who despite having attained a high position in the bank, after
both a wai and shaking hands, said, “I’m still single and
available!” But then quickly added, “But I am so busy, I
don’t have time!” In a country where the popular conception
is that women are subservient, it is a pleasure to meet one
ready and able to speak her mind, and yet retain that
wonderfully Thai element of female charm.
She was born near the Mae Sai border, with
her father being a Chinese businessman from Beijing, which might
have gone a long way towards determining her career, and her
mother Thai. However, the language spoken at home was Mandarin,
so she grew up bilingual.
When she was seven years old, she was sent to
Sacred Heart School in Chiang Mai for her primary education, and
then to Montfort College for her secondary years. During this
time she found that she liked the English language, and by the
time of finishing school had decided that she wanted to be an
She enrolled at Payap (now a university)
choosing Humanities, with the English language as her major.
Four years later, she emerged with her Bachelor’s degree, and
it was now time to enter the workforce. Jobs for English
teachers were not plentiful and she was side-tracked by the
glamour of the aviation industry, with Cathay Pacific looking
for air hostesses, especially girls who could speak three
languages, including Mandarin.
She was accepted for training by Cathay
Pacific, and served drinks and food at 30,000 feet for 12
months. “It just wasn’t me,” said Malai, and it didn’t
need further explanation. This was a young woman who needed a
real profession and it wasn’t being a ‘trolley dolly’ in a
She returned to Chiang Mai, thinking that
perhaps she should return to Payap as an English teacher, but
was side-tracked again by an offer from Bangkok Bank to join
them in a new branch opening in Chiang Mai. The ability to speak
English and Mandarin was making her very desirable to corporate
Thailand, even though she had no experience in the banking
While banking may be a good profession, it is
not without its pitfalls for the novice tellers. Have you ever
wondered just why they are so careful counting (and re-counting)
your money? It is because the teller is responsible to make up
any shortfalls at the end of the day. “For your first mistake
you probably will have to reimburse 50 percent, but for multiple
shortfalls it will be 100 percent,” said Malai. I asked her if
she had ever been short at the end of her shift, and she had.
“It was 17 years ago. I was 5,000 baht short. I couldn’t
sleep for a month. I was lucky, I had brought a lot of new
customers to the branch (because of her multi-lingual abilities)
so I was told I would only have to pay 25 percent (B. 1250).”
I got the distinct feeling that that 5,000 baht probably still
gave her the odd bad night, even now.
Of course there will be times when the teller
might find a surplus at the end of the day. “If you are over
you can’t keep it. You have to hand it over.” There is an
accounting system to keep track of these sums, just as much as
for the shortfalls.
After 10 years in that branch of the Bangkok
Bank, it was obvious that banking was her true metier. She had
risen through the ranks to be the chief accountant of the
branch, but she was not destined to stop there. Her abilities
had been noticed by a relief manager, who when given the task of
setting up a new branch within the Kad Suan Kaew shopping centre
asked Malai to join him in forming the team for the new branch.
That was 1994, and she was pleasantly
surprised to see that several of her previous customers moved
over with her. To have someone on the other side of the counter
who could speak English and Mandarin was keeping several of the
alien customers very happy, and they were not going to lose her.
Her ability to attract the ‘foreign’
accounts was one of the reasons this branch grew, going from
being a sub-branch with seven employees to become a fully
fledged branch with 12 staff and offering full banking
Her personal development was not being left
to chance either. She completed her MBA through the National
Institute of Development Administration (NIDA), taking this as a
two and a half year part-time study course at nights and
However, after three boom years at the new
branch, there came the cataclysmic economic crash of 1997 to
upset the banking apple cart. “The bubble had burst. We had to
cut costs. There was no overtime and no bonus. We had many
NPL’s (non-performing loans). Some customers were in big
trouble, while others just said they didn’t want to pay! There
was much restructuring.” It was obviously an unhappy time for
banking personnel, but she weathered the storm, finishing up at
Kad Suan Kaew as the assistant manager.
The next rung up the ladder was to become a
manager herself, and she is currently manager at Bangkok
Bank’s Borsan branch. She is not sitting still, however.
Through personal endeavour she has brought Borsan up into the
top five branches in the 60 in the northern region. And she is
proud of it.
“Whatever men can do, women can do too,”
said Malai, but also said, “Thai men are not interested in
strong women.” This also explains her saying, “I have UBC as
my friend at night!”
Malai Buasarot represents the ‘new’ Thai woman.
Intelligent, educated and hard working. “I am frankly very
straight. Other women are scared to say things. But not me!”
Malai, we need more of you!