FSMART awaits approval for lending

FSMART awaits approval for lending

A woman uses a Boonterm top-up machine. (Photo by Pornprom Satrabhaya)
A woman uses a Boonterm top-up machine. (Photo by Pornprom Satrabhaya)

MAI-listed Forth Smart Service Plc (FSMART), the country's largest top-up machine operator, is seeking the Bank of Thailand's approval for a consumer lending licence to diversify its business.

The company applied for the central bank's four financial business licences -- personal loan, nanofinance, auto loan and car title loan -- at the beginning of this year, said Narongsak Lertsuptavee, assistant managing director and chief financial officer of Forth Smart.

The approval process is expected to be completed in the next few months, he said, and personal loan and nanofinance will be its first two financial services, with plans to begin the lending business in the third quarter.

In the initial stage, the company plans to offer the loan products to existing clients who are members of Boonterm top-up machines, Mr Narongsak said.

There are 140,000 Boonterm top-up machines nationwide, with more than 100,000 members, of which 50,000 are potential users of the company's financial services, he said.

"We expect to attract customers, some who have borrowed from loan sharks, into the formal financial system with reasonable pricing," he said.

The credit line for the company's personal loan and nanofinance products will be capped at 10,000 baht per borrower.

The company aims for 500 million baht in loans in the first year of operations. Auto and car title loans are scheduled to be introduced in the next phase.

Mr Narongsak said the company will continue to increase the number of partners in the banking agent business. FSMART is a banking agent for four banks: Kasikornbank (KBank), Krungthai Bank, Bank of Ayudhya and the Government Savings Bank.

The company is in talks with Bangkok Bank and expects to resume negotiations with Siam Commercial Bank for a banking agent business. Talks with SCB were suspended for a while as the bank focused on the digital channel.

Mr Narongsak said cash still dominates payment, even as the country is transitioning away from cash payments, and Boonterm top-up machines have received positive responses from some customer groups, particularly low-income earners living in remote areas.

Supreecha Limpikanjanakowit, KBank's first senior vice-president, said the bank has offered deposit services through Boonterm top-up machines for two years and the service has received a good response from customers.

Deposits for KBank customers through Boonterm top-up machines average 10,000 transactions a month, with deposits averaging 1,000 baht per transaction.

Blue-collar workers are major users of the bank's deposit services through Boonterm top-up machines, Mr Narongsak said, adding that the banking agent channel facilitates the bank's new deposit base expansion because the market segment is more familiar with the machines than with visiting bank branches or making financial transactions via digital banking.

With the bank's wide customer base and various segments, KBank will offer financial services that fit each group's lifestyle and demands. Both offline and online channels are needed to serve all customers, Mr Narongsak said.

FSMART shares closed Friday on the Market for Alternative Investment at 7.15 baht, down 10 satang, in trade worth 9.9 million baht.

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