By Karnjana Karnjanatawe
THAILAND, 28 July 2000 (Bangkok Post) - Thailand's financial sector is scrambling to join the Internet economy with a range of online initiatives spearheaded by the banks and stock brokers.
Click and Mortar banks
Siam Commercial Bank was the first bank here to launch Internet banking and support online payments over the Internet. It now generates around 30 million baht a month-up from 7 million baht a month one year ago.
SCB set up a specific e-business department to overlook its e-services, which include Internet banking, mobile banking and online payments.
According to SCB first executive vice president for technology, Vichit Amonviratskul, SCB aims to gain 10 percent of the country's Internet users, or 10,000 customers, for its Internet banking service.
Currently it has 3,500 customers for the service at www.scbpark.com, which provides balance inquiries, transfers, statements, bill payments, and loan requests.
SCB will also launch an e-commerce confirmation system to make sure the credit card user is the same person who orders the products or service online. When a credit card is used over the Internet, the system will send back a confirmation email and will only process the order when the customer replies.
"Even though it is a bit complicated, it will bring confidence to the e-commerce environment," he said.
SCB also plans to offer a financial portal for investors and business people. While SCB is a step ahead of the competition in Internet banking, Thai Farmers Bank aims to catch up with the launch of its own service in September.
According to TFB senior vice president Ampol Polohakul, TFB will allow anyone to open an account through the Web at www.tfbebank.com.
In addition, the bank will encourage non-credit card holders to shop online through its Web shopping card, which consumers pay for up front.
Of Thailand's other banks, the Bank of Asia soft launched its Internet banking service to 200 selected customers at the beginning of this year. The service will be opened to the general public soon.
And Krung Thai Bank will join the fray with an e-payment gateway for business-to-business and business-to-consumer e-commerce. According to deputy managing director Viroj Suppipat, the bank will also launch Internet banking and mobile banking services.
According to Band of Thailand (BOT) payment system department director, Saowanee Suwannacheep, BOT will support innovation by cooperating with commercial banks to build up its Financial EDI (FEDI) system.
The Bank of Thailand's Automated High-value Transfer Network (Bahtnet) does not yet support each bank's customers, but the FEDI aims to bridge the gap by supporting importers and exporters with links to the EDI system of the Customs Department.
Online trading explosion
Meanwhile, to encourage more brokers to provide online trading through the Internet, the Stock Exchange of Thailand will co-invest with German software house NetLife to establish a new company-as yet unnamed-in September.
The company will provide Internet trading services and is aiming for 100 million baht in capital registration.
The SET will take a 70 percent stake, according to SET senior vice president Somkid Jiranuntarat.
The e-bokerage solutions will include real-time stock trading, security and financial settlements with the banks.
The service is claimed to reduce the cost of investment for brokers. They need to pay a joining fee and transaction fee.
NetLife country manager Jiradej Poonmanothum said NetLife products had already been implemented in various countries in Europe and Asia. It has also introduced its software suites to some local banks here.
Although online stock trading has not yet boomed in Thailand, it is expected to grow rapidly. Using statistics from other parts of Asia such as Taiwan, Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong, the number of people using online trading services will increase 30 percent in the next few years.
There are seven companies licensed to provide online broking, five of which have already started their service - Kim Eng Securities, Tisco Securities, Seamico Securities, Phillip Securities, ABN Amro Securities Trading.
National Securities will begin its service in September, according to company senior manager for the Internet securities business, Chatpong Talabnak.
He said that while building the company's own system may cost more than using the SET's proposed service, it would be easier for maintenance.
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