Chirathep Senivongs Na Ayudhaya, or Art, as friends and colleagues call him, is far from a stereotypical banker. Instead of talking economics, we found him discussing the arts, travel, fine dining and writing.
"In many ways, writing speeches allows me to fulfil my dream of being a playwright. It's just the story is economics," he said.
Having earned bachelor's and master's degrees in economics from the London School of Economics and Oxford University, Art was well qualified to write speeches for senior officials at the Bank of Thailand during the first few years of his career.
It does not take much time with him to understand why he was assigned such a task. For a start, the paintings on his office work wall reveal that Art has a passion for art.
"These paintings represent milestones and reflect my emotions at specific moments," he said. "The most important thing for me is that the pieces in my collection are symbolic of life. We don't really know if our life at any particular moment is done or is still in the making."
Art considers a painting of water lilies by watercolourist Sa-ngad Pui-ock the most important piece in his collection, reflecting his passion for impressionism. But he also considers traditional Thai art, conveying messages about relationships and work, to be important.
"These Kinnaree remind me of cupids in the West," Art said, looking at another painting on his office wall, a traditional Thai-style painting depicting a man in different positions in a boat, in many ways representing his various duties at the BoT.
Art said he believed everything is written in the stars. Twenty years ago, the central bank took on a young man who was finding it difficult to choose between banking and showbiz.
Now Art is entrusted with the important task of leading the Bank of Thailand's branding efforts _ reinventing people's impression of the central bank as a friendly institution rather than a lofty and distant bureaucracy.
"I chose to join the bank. People said that when you are 23 or 24, you choose to do what you love most, and you have little choice in the matter."
Art considered himself a go-getter, and proved the point by becoming the BoT's senior director of corporate communications in his mid-forties _ quite an achievement, given that the central bank is regarded as a far tougher place than the private sector to gain promotion.
"The BoT really makes sure that the people who are promoted are really up to the job. There's no room for wrong decisions here," said Art.
A turning point in his life came when the bank's former governor, MR Chatumongkol Sonakul, picked him for a scholarship at Harvard's John F Kennedy School of Government, with a blessing to "study whatever could make you different from people here".
A stint at Harvard gave him a brand new experience: "I found many people that are better than me. It taught me to be proud of myself without having to be number one," Art remembered.
Over the years, the central bank has become more accessible to the public, but Art is determined to improve people's understanding of the central bank even further.
"I want to see that when people look at the central bank and what it does, they understand what we stand for in terms of our mission and value as an organisation, rather than simply thinking about who did what," said Art.
And Art has secured the support of well known brand-builder Boonchai Boonyarattaweth _ one of his favourite entertainers _ to assist with the central bank's brand building project.
"It's very difficult to distinguish two or three characters in an organisation that is so complex and make them known to the public," said Art. "Branding is about experiences rather than just the message."
And having achieved so much, so early in his career _ a team leader in his thirties and a senior executive in his mid-forties _ Art has had a lot of experiences. But he is known for a balanced approach between work and play.
"If you ask me what the unique selling point in my career is, I would say that I dare to give facts to senior executives in a timely manner, and with the right approach. This bravery comes from years of experience. The senior executives need to trust that I have their best interests at heart," Art said.
The new challenge he has at the central bank is to inspire "Generation Y" _ those born from the early 1980s to the early 2000s _ to realise the Bank of Thailand's value.
Art has recently published a book named after the house he grew up in, Villa@Wongwienlek. The book tells about the lessons he has learned from his career, and the challenges we will all face in the future.
In the book, Art sees himself as having reached a peak and figuring out how to climb down gracefully, and pondering on whether wisdom grows with age.
"Whenever I close my eyes and think of when I make such decisions, I see myself standing on top of a high hill, about to walk down to its grassy base. But when my thoughts begin to flip, a new idea emerges _ whether I'm really walking down or just resting in a green field, waiting for the right time to climb to the top of a new hill," he writes in the book.
One of his dreams is to open a boutique consultancy for a new generation of businesses, politicians and government executives.
"I guess we'll never run short of the demand for good speeches among the new generation of politicians and CEOs," Art said.
In the meantime, Art is at the top of his field and plays a vital role in communicating to the public just what the Bank of Thailand does, grooming young bankers and serving the country. And from down here, he certainly appears to be at the top of a vast hill.
About the author
- Writer: Parista Yuthamanop