An Interview with Tana Pothikamjorn, Head of Digital Banking, Siam Commercial Bank


“The potential of what big data and analytics can bring to the bank is quite vast in all facets of the business. The difficulty is usually how banks operationalise this as a fundamental capability.”

FST Media: What technology is proving to be the biggest ‘game-changer’ in digital banking?

Pothikamjorn: The biggest ‘game changer’ so far has got to be the mobile app ecosystems. It has provided a platform for banks and many other businesses to create on-demand services that are convenient in a way that was not possible before.

However, going forward, all focus will be around data analytics. With technology deployed in all aspects of our lives, data is being created and collected for everything. The progressive democratisation of machine learning algorithms will offer new capabilities and possibilities to utilise all data, allowing us to create much smarter services that are relevant and contextual.

FST Media: What role can traditional, established banks play in driving innovation within the finance industry?

Pothikamjorn: Regardless of all the fintech disruption talk, established banks still have the scale and trust from consumers. I believe traditional banks need to play more of a platform role to help drive innovation in the industry. Too often I’ve seen start-ups fail to create great services as they get stuck trying to integrate with banks. Banks have a range of information, products, and services that can be leveraged in different ways by many other businesses. An API and platform strategy can go a long way in spurring innovation that benefits all sides.

FST Media: How can banks leverage big data and analytics to develop innovative business practices?

Pothikamjorn: The potential of what big data and analytics can bring to the bank is quite vast in all facets of the business. The difficulty is usually how banks operationalise this as a fundamental capability.

First things first, banks have to put into place foundational data technologies and governance. If all that is coming in place cleanly, then I urge you to recruit data scientists like crazy. They are becoming one of the hottest and hardest to find talents in the market today.

FST Media: How is Siam Commercial Bank responding to the challenge of digital disruption and the rise of fintechs?

Pothikamjorn: Build, buy, and partner.

We’ve launched a subsidiary arm called Digital Ventures, which is building new concepts relevant in this space, investing in start-ups around the world to bring exposure to the latest trends and technologies, and accelerating local start-ups to become contributors to the ecosystem in the coming future.

We are also deeply engaged in creating strategic partnerships across the industry to build more opportunities that can leverage technology to engage with customers in new ways.

FST Media: Where will digital payments be in 2018?

Pothikamjorn: Digital payments will be on a rapid ascent in Thailand in 2018. With a strong government initiative called ‘PromptPay’ creating a central standard for all types of payment use-cases, we expect to see banks cooperating and competing to deploy payment solutions throughout the market. Think Alipay and WeChat QR payment use-cases being adopted with all the banking mobile apps on the same scheme; Thailand may be following in the footsteps of China in the widespread adoption of mobile payments.

FST Media: What are the key challenges for Siam Commercial Bank in the current competitive market space?

Pothikamjorn: Just like any big traditional bank, creating speed and scale for transformation is a key challenge. It takes time to drive culture, restructure for agility, and recruit the talent necessary to push transformation throughout the whole bank.

We have spent the time aligning this agenda from top management down. Now it’s all about setting up execution at a pace we are not used to but is the norm in this competitive digital environment.

FST Media: How can AI assist with enhancing customer engagement? Where do you see its limitations?

Pothikamjorn: AI is the new UI. There are so many opportunities to streamline and uplift customer experience and engagement with AI. Imagine that if we could accurately predict our customers’ wishes and desires at any moment (the data is out there!); we won’t have to bother the customer with any unnecessary conversation or interfaces and just provide them with that service or product instantly in the way they want. They say banks will become invisible; banks will allow customers to get to the things they desire and just automate the financial parts in between.

FST Media: How are developments in biometrics shaping traditional banking services?

Pothikamjorn: Biometrics allow us to provide better experiences while maintaining the security needed. Passwords and PINs are notoriously difficult to set up and easy to forget and get stolen. Fingerprints, voice, face, retina, and many other technologies are allowing customers to easily and safely identify and authenticate themselves for banking services.

FST Media: What existing technology would you like to see play a more prominent role in banking over the next few years?

Pothikamjorn: Chat and natural language processing have an interesting proposition to offer. More and more we see consumers engaged with messaging services such that they prefer these mediums over traditional calls.

Chatbot technology will allow us to provide automated services that can both delight the customer with convenience and streamline much of the operating costs required to operate many manned service channels for banks.

FST Media: Aside from your own, what career would you like to have pursued?

Pothikamjorn: Photography. I’m an avid landscape photographer. It would be great, sometimes, to get out of the hectic world of digital transformation to a quiet, beautiful, and epic spot in, say, Patagonia, capturing the changing colours of the scenery as the sun slowly sets across the horizon.