SCB spinoffs expected to produce first Thai unicorn

Siam Commercial Bank (SCB) will spin off at least three of its fintech units to allow them greater independence, and bank executives said one would likely become Thailand’s first unicorn, a privately-owned startup valued at over $1 billion.

SCB was the first bank established in Thailand and remains one of the four biggest banks in the country. It was also one of the first to start investing in fintech startups and subsidiaries a few years ago.

SCB Co-President Orapong Thien-Ngern said that one of the units that would be spun off has the potential to become a unicorn. Still, he did not specify which units the bank is planning on cutting loose or which has the potential to be valued at $1 billion.

The bank’s central fintech units are Digital Ventures Co, which invests in startups, and National ITMX Co, a payments services provider, according to SCB’s 2018 annual report.

Thailand has yet to produce a unicorn, although it has a vibrant startup scene and a growing ecosystem. Neighboring countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia have unicorns, but their shared language and much larger combined populations give their quality startups a head start in terms of market size.

Orapong stressed that SCB and other banks are preparing to undergo a major transformation because of the new digital landscape and the rise of new forms of lending and saving.

“Thai banking, like most other countries, is a sunsetting industry, as existing lenders and new players are competing for limited pools of customers,” Orapong said. “Venture capital and technology investments will be the key survival strategies for SCB in attracting new customers and boosting earnings.”

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