BBL looks to agents for expansion

BBL looks to agents for expansion

Boonterm operator is potential partner

Bangkok Bank had 1,180 physical branches at the end of April. Patipat Janthong
Bangkok Bank had 1,180 physical branches at the end of April. Patipat Janthong

Bangkok Bank (BBL) expects to finalise its banking agent appointments this year after negotiations with several potential partners, including MAI-listed Forth Smart Service Plc, the operator of Boonterm top-up machines.

The bank is considering the business feasibility of potential banking agents, particularly customer demand for transactions via the channel, as well as infrastructure base, security systems and the agent's reputation as key factors in determining whether to appoint agents, said Thaweelap Rittapirom, executive vice-president of BBL.

"Banking agents are a potential channel that offers customers more convenience in making transactions, which are dipping at brick-and-mortar branches," he said. "We are taking time to study the channel before making a final decision, though other banks have already extended their services via agents."

Customers of Kasikornbank, Krungthai Bank, Bank of Ayudhya and Government Savings Bank can make financial transactions, including money transfers and deposits, at Boonterm top-up machines.

Financial services through banking agents are gaining ground because the channel can help banks better access customers, particularly in remote areas, with far lower cost than for opening their own physical branches.

Although banking transactions at some traditional branches have declined, others continue to show transaction growth under business restructuring strategies that involve shuttering low-transaction volume branches and relocating to areas with heavy footfall, Mr Thaweelap said.

BBL expects to keep its branch numbers at about 1,200 nationwide by year-end.

According to Bank of Thailand data, BBL had 1,180 physical branches at the end of April, up from 1,161 in 2018.

BBL, the country's third-largest lender by assets, has also revamped services of some physical branches under a expansive concept to catch up with customers' needs.

For instance, services centred on retail and small and medium-sized enterprise customers are available at the same branches.

Despite ebbing transactions at traditional channels -- physical branches and ATMs -- and exponential growth of digital transactions, the bank needs both channels because the traditional channel is necessary to serve demand from some customer segments, Mr Thaweelap said.

Some clients are still familiar with and have more confidence in face-to-face services, he said.

BBL shares closed on Thursday on the Stock Exchange of Thailand at 194.50 baht, down 50 satang, in trade worth 992.2 million baht.

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