As of December 2016 there were 15 million internet banking users and 20.8 million mobile banking users in Thailand according to central bank statistics. In September, there were 24.5 million internet banking and 66.8 million mobile banking transactions, with transaction values of 2,473 billion Baht and 584 billion Baht respectively.
With all this in mind, the future of payments in Thailand looks set to be dominated by digital.
In December 2015, The Thai government rolled out the National E-payment initiative with the aim of promoting digital payments. The initiative was designed to encourage the growth of a cashless society, reduce the number of unbanked in the country and obtain data from evaluating current social welfare policies. This scheme is part of a larger long-term plan to lower banking costs and increase the efficiency of tax collection.
One of the key aspects of the National E-payment initiative is PromptPay which was launched in January 2017. PromptPay is an interbank mobile payments system which allows registered customers to transfer funds using their mobile phone and the mobile number or citizen ID number of the recipient. It can also be used to receive payments from government agencies such as social security benefits and tax refunds.
However, with issues from cybercriminals such as the hack on Government Saving Banks ATMs, many Thais are wary of e-payment services. Since it opened, the pace of those registering for PromptPay has been relatively slow, despite intense promotion from Thai banks.
As in other emerging markets such as Vietnam, cash payments are still relatively common and people prefer taking out cash from the ATM of one bank and depositing it at the adjacent branch of another bank. With Thailand yet to enact a data privacy law, there may be continued uncertainty amongst the public as to the security of their personal information.
Veerathai Santiprabhob, the Governor of the Bank of Thailand is looking to improve the use of electronic and online payments. His belief is that digital payments and a move towards a cashless society will be important for the competitiveness of Thailand’s economy by reducing transaction costs and increasing good governance.
Social commerce is huge in Thailand, with a survey from PwC finding that 51% of online consumers in Thailand have made purchases from social platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and LINE. This is a result of the next generation’s tendency to shop via social media and on mobile devices.
The National E-payment system will also have a large impact on social commerce in Thailand as with the country shifting toward a cashless model, more global companies may try to develop their social media presence in Thailand to increase online sales.
Thailand looks set to be one of Southeast Asia’s next Fintech Hubs as digital disruption continues to spread. The emergence of a new generation of financial technology ‘fintech’ startups has spurred the development of a complete payments ecosystem.
Like countries such as the Philippines, where fintech is providing financial services to the “unbanked” in a rapidly growing market, Thailand is also making the most of the opportunity to connect large populations to banking and financial services. It is this untapped market along with the opportunity to enhance financial services across the country through new technologies which has led to the new wave of Fintech startups in Thailand.
Blockchain is the technology that underpins bitcoin digital currency and is frequently debated in the press. Acknowledging that new technologies such as this have enormous potential for the country, banks, financial corporations and startups are starting to look into new developments such as crypto-currencies (like Bitcoin) and the Blockchain.
Earlier this year Dr Veerathai Santiprabhob opened up about the potential for blockchain disruption. He commented on the changing role of global finance calling emerging technological innovations both an “opportunity” and a “challenge” while noting that he believes the nation’s domestic financial institutions largely need to embrace change. Therefore, Blockchain technology looks headed for widespread adoption in Thailand within the next few years and is one to watch out for.
Want to find out more about how the future payments landscape in Thailand? Join us in Bangkok on the 5th and 6th of February for our Seamless Thailand conference. Find out more here.