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Book Review

Book Review: by Lang Reid

Thailand Business Essentials - the Banking Sector

The word “Banking” caught my eye as I strolled along the Bookazine shelves. Banking has never been one of my fortes, not having been blessed with anything to bank while younger, and the sock under the bed had served me well since then.
The world-wide collapse of the banking industry, and bailouts of banks by governments in 2008 had also left me with the distinct impression that the sock was indeed the way to go, until I found there was a hole in the toe, or my children had discovered my hiding place, which was known to no-one except 376 of my children’s playmates.
Thailand Business Essentials - the Banking Sector (ISBN 9-786-1190165-0-7, edited by Andrew Batt, Managing Editor of BusinessWeek Thailand), was released this year (2009) and contains examinations of the financial viability of the local banks, as well as interviews with key figures in the Thailand banking/financial industry and their predictions for the forthcoming 12 months. The cover promises essential analysis, information and insight for investors and global business professionals.
The predictions were what interested me most. Should I darn the sock, or was it safe to invest my dwindling baht in the vaults of some bank somewhere? Interestingly, Thailand has 14 commercial banks, whilst Indonesia has 125. No socks? Perhaps the Indonesians go barefoot?
There was universal agreement that the financial crisis of 2008/2009 is not, and will not, be as bad as the financial crash of 1997. However, the lessons that were learned from the ’97 fracas have helped the current bankers get through these tough times.
The unstable political situation has also relatively cocooned Thailand, as it has not been so exposed to debt/investment over the past three years. As Andrew Batt concludes in his introduction, “Thailand, and its banks in particular faces some tough times ahead. Whether you call it a crisis, slowdown, turmoil … the key fact is that Thailand is better able to emerge stronger and ready to move forward thanks to the lessons learned in 1997.”
There is even ‘free’ advice from Pavin Rodloytuk, the retail banking director of Citibank on what to do if you have two million baht to invest. The ‘good oil’ is 20 percent in equity, 50 percent in bonds and fixed income funds (which return much better than the deposit rate) and keep 30 percent in cash.
Since this is a reference book there are important resources and contact information at the back of the book covering Commercial Banks, Retail Banks, Foreign Banks, Specialized Institutions, Chambers of Commerce and a full index.
It is a slim volume at less than 100 pages, and at B. 500 is a fairly hefty impost, particularly as there is obvious sponsorship for the publication from the American Thai Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) and the British Chamber of Commerce Thailand (BCCT), plus Kasikorn Bank, Citibank, Kiatnakin Bank and Muang Thai Life Insurance Co.
For those involved in the financial industry, investors or entrepreneurs in any business, this book will have a value greater than the purchase price. But for me, private impecunious citizen, the sock still wins.