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KBank expects 10 times digital lending

KBank estimates that its digital lending volume will grow by 10 times this year as low-income users come on board. PATTARAPONG CHATPATTARASILL

Kasikornbank (KBank) has set an ambitious goal of 10 times growth in digital lending this year, targeting low-income earners who are not bank customers.

The bank expects its digital lending outstanding to expand aggressively to 10 billion baht in 2019 from 1 billion last year, said president Kattiya Indaravijaya.

KBank plans to reach new borrowers through the partnership model, Ms Kattiya said.

A full array of consumer lending products, including mortgages, auto loans, credit cards and personal loans, will be available via K-Plus, KBank's mobile banking app, this year, she said.

For digital mortgages, the bank will prioritise homes priced below 3 million baht per unit, shifting focus from units 3 million baht and higher.

The self-employed and freelance buyers are the new target customers.

Take KBank's collaboration with Grab Thailand as an example. The partnership is a springboard for the bank to access taxi drivers, a new customer base, Ms Kattiya said.

With the expansion to low-income earners, a group considered a higher risk, the bank expects an increased level of payment defaults initially.

KBank hopes it can use artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyse data and learn consumer behaviour, providing more accurate lending predictions in the future, Ms Kattiya said.

The move underscored a recent remark by Patchara Samalapa, another KBank president, that the bank is shifting its customer acquisition focus to the lower-income segment, where strong demand for financial services remains.

Ms Kattiya said KBank plans to recruit 100-200 local and foreign IT staff, in accordance with its plan to adopt a wide range of digital banking services. The bank is hunting for new employees from tech meccas like Silicon Valley, Israel and China.

The bank's China network is helping support IT staff recruitment, she said.

"As part of the intensified headhunting for IT staff, the bank is offering new recruits living overseas job options," Ms Kattiya said. "For instance, they can work overseas and engage in jobs on a case-by-case basis."

The bank's technology subsidiary, Kasikorn Business Technology Group (KBTG), has a total staff of 1,200.

KBank aims to increase users of its K-Plus app to 100 million in the near future from 10 million now, developing it as a business platform and expanding to the regional market. The main tool to accomplish that goal will be partnerships, Ms Kattiya said.

The bank has 14 million customers, of which 10 million are K-Plus users.

Amid the exponential growth of mobile banking transactions, transactions at branches, ATMs and cash deposit machines have grown by 5% a year on average, Ms Kattiya said.

KBank plans to shut down fewer than 50 brick-and-mortar branches this year, she said.

Moreover, the bank wants to open additional outlets under its new touch-point model to keep pace with changing consumer lifestyles.

KBANK shares closed Friday on the Stock Exchange of Thailand at 186 baht, unchanged, in trade worth 1.71 billion baht.

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