TGH's chief takes firm to new terrain
The freshly installed boss wants to fully digitise operations and merge into a financial services group
With a vision to fully digitise work operations and transform financial services to a new dawn of better services, SET-listed Thai Group Holdings Plc (TGH) has formulated clear development phases towards regional expansion under the helm of Thakorn Piyapan.
Under the first phase of the digital transformation from 2021 to 2022, TGH plans to develop and strengthen IT foundations covering data analytics, artificial intelligence and the agility of internal working processes in preparation for full-scale digitalisation, Mr Thakorn, chief executive of TGH, told the Bangkok Post in an exclusive interview.
For the second phase from 2023 to 2025, the group targets upgrading its core insurance business to transform into an insurtech firm while gradually merging TGH into a financial services group, he said.
With five financial subsidiaries operating under TGH, notably Southeast Insurance Co Ltd and Southeast Life Insurance Co Ltd, these entities support the group's plan to become a provider of integrated financial services beyond insurance.
TGH received an e-money business licence from the Bank of Thailand last year and set up Southeast Money Co Ltd in preparation for new and innovative financial services.
TGH has applied for all types of consumer loan services under the e-money business licence, covering vehicle hire-purchase loans, personal loans, nanofinance and picofinance.
Under the digital transformation plan, TGH's subsidiary wants to transform digital services structurally.
In later stages, these services would be connected with the group's insurance business and gradually expanded to other financial services of the group.
For the second phase of the digital transformation project, TGH expects to offer insurance services on the digital platform and expand to other digital financial services, starting with auto loans and personal loans.
The group aims for a soft launch of its digital auto loan service in the third quarter this year to test the system.
The company also plans to develop sophisticated digital technologies to set the ball rolling on comprehensive, integrated financial services.
Given how TGH's core businesses operate under Southeast Insurance and Southeast Capital for auto insurance and auto rental and leasing service, respectively, the group has a sizable customer base and demand to fulfil its expansion plan of providing auto loans on the digital platform.
For instance, when a car rental contract with Southeast Capital comes due, demand for a used car loan can surface. This provides a business opportunity in this segment for TGH's subsidiaries.
Mr Thakorn said TGH set a roadmap to expand its financial services abroad with a focus on Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.
At present, Southeast Insurance and Southeast Capital do not have a strong overseas presence as they only support Thai Charoen Corporation (TCC) Group with insurance services in external markets.
TCC Group and TGH, owned by tycoon Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, have businesses in their portfolios that span the real sector and financial services.
TGH could provide integrated financial services under TCC Group's umbrella in the long run, based on the former's digital transformation plan.
For instance, TGH could become a digital financial service arm of TCC Group to simultaneously support TCC Group in the realm of financial services and business expansion of the group's insurance business to cover health and wellness in the future.
TGH chief executive Thakorn Piyapan.
"We have a clear plan to upgrade Southeast Insurance to be embedded with insurtech and transform TGH into a digital financial group over the next five years. After that, we will consider scaling TGH again depending on changes in the economic landscape and business opportunities at that time," said Mr Thakorn.
Mr Thakorn, who was appointed chief executive of TGH in November 2020, is the first group chief executive of an entity affiliated with Mr Charoen who is from outside the Sirivadhanabhakdi family.
Before joining TGH, Mr Thakorn served as head of Krungsri Consumer, an unsecured loan unit under Bank of Ayudhya (BAY), and BAY's head of the digital banking and innovation division.
With 23 years in the banking industry, Mr Thakorn has accrued a lot of credit, with a focus on consumer finance and digital banking.
Although TGH has applied a digital infrastructure to its operations for a while in preparation for fully digitised services before approaching Mr Thakorn to join, the group still needs a large-scale IT system development under the ongoing transformation project.
TGH's digital transformation still has some catching up to do compared with other large corporates, especially those in the banking sector, and the group needs to expedite the process to keep up with swift changes in both technological innovations and consumer behaviour, he said.
"BAY took five years to undergo digital transformation, but TGH will need around two years," said Mr Thakorn.
As the chief executive, I'm confident TGH will succeed in our transformation programme as this is our primary goal in the disruptive digital era."
As the group embarks on its catch-up game with digitalisation, TGH needs to upgrade its digital platform to be on par with peers that provide similar financial services in terms of digital capability.
After the company completes its digital transformation, scaling up its digital capability for greater business opportunities is the next step, with creativity and innovation entrenched as the core mantra for survival and success in the digital era, he said.
"As chief executive, I have a lot of things to do that exceeded my previous expectations," said Mr Thakorn.
"On the other hand, convincing both executives and staff, fine-tuning people's mindset, is a key challenge. More and clearer communication is necessary to collectively move towards digital transformation."