Siam Commercial Bank increases investments in digital tech

Top Thai banks are keeping pace with top-tech developments as Siam Commercial Bank increased its investment in its Digital Ventures subsidiary by $50 million last week, making it the largest Thai venture capital company devoted to digital technology, while the bank’s securities subsidiary announced it had increased its budget for robotics and artificial intelligence by $20 million.

Between 70 and 80 percent of the $50 million will be directly invested in startups, both Thai and global, and the bank expects they will yield 25 to 30 percent returns each year over the next five years, according to Arak Sutivong, the bank’s chief financial officer and chief strategy officer.

“Our past success has given us the confidence to double our venture capital fund size from $50 million to a total of $100 million. Leveraging a $100 million capital base thrusts us into the ‘big kids club’ of international bank corporate venture capital funds and enables us to continue our hunt for key strategic technologies and attractive financial investments,’’ Arak wrote in a Facebook post.

Digital Ventures has invested in over 800 startups and more than 60 venture capital funds in over 30 countries since it was founded in February 2016. The company says it is dedicated to driving change in the banking industry through investment and innovation, as well as supporting the growth of Thai businesses with the accelerator program.

Arak added that Digital Ventures would not invest as much in other venture capital funds going forward, preferring instead to directly invest in startups. The corporate venture capital firm has backed Golden Gate Ventures, Dymon Asia Ventures and Arbor Ventures in the past.

The company has also made significant investments in Ripple, a Silicon Valley-based startup focusing on blockchain technology and is also involved in digital currencies. Thai financial regulators have urged Thai financial institutions to avoid involvement in crypto-currencies until they work out rules governing their use, but Digital Ventures said it has reported its investment with Ripple to the Bank of Thailand and has received no negative feedback.

Siam Commercial Bank Securities also announced last week that it will invest as much as $12.5 million in artificial intelligence and robotics as a preventative measure against financial technology disruption. The company said AI and robotics are part of its preparation for online trading in the future.