By SUCHEERA PINIJPARAKARN
Chairwoman Salinee Wangtal said yesterday that the four divisions would be for start-up development, regular SME development, and two venture-capital businesses, with SME Bank adding more than 100 staff, including executives, to oversee the new units.
To help start-up SMEs, the bank needs a new division to coach them in doing business, while regular SMEs that can survive in the market should be supported by a dedicated unit in terms of how to lower their costs and achieve higher profit margins, she said.
The finance minister has told the bank that it should be a development bank to SMEs, and not an institution focused on maximising its net profit.
Therefore some of its net earnings should be allocated to supporting SMEs that need to be innovative to strengthen their business, she explained.
The budget for supporting SMEs will be around Bt350 million per year, which will be separate from venture-capital funding worth Bt2 billion under two of the new divisions.
The bank will focus on supporting start-up enterprises in agricultural goods and services, Salinee added.
In regard to venture-capital funding, SME Bank has approved in principle supporting three SMEs via capital of Bt20 million, while another six enterprises are interested in joining the project, she said.
Mongkol Leelatham, president of SME Bank, said the bank acknowledged that it should be both a financial institution and one involved in business coaching, and that it therefore should manage its human resources to comply with the new vision.
The bank will offer “golden handshakes” through early retirement to senior-ranking executives aged between 52 and 57, he said, adding that the initial number of executives who could retire under the scheme was 60. SMEs will have an increasingly meaningful role to play in future in the Thai business employment market, because larger companies – especially listed ones – are going outside and can use human resources from overseas, including Asean labour, he said.
Meanwhile, apart from being the development bank for SMEs, the institution must also be proactive in helping SMEs that have been affected by the economic slowdown, before they turn into bad debtors, he stressed.
“We have recruited 95 bank staff to visit customers nationwide, including SMEs in the Central region that are expected to be affected by the coming drought, to offer monthly instalment adjustments to match their actual income, because if might be too late if we help them when those debts turn into non-performing loans,” Mongkol said.
NPLs at SME Bank as of the end of January stood at 26.16 per cent of outstanding loans of Bt90.18 billion.
Mongkol said most of the NPLs were among small enterprises in wholesale and retail operations in the southern provinces, which had been affected by the prolonged slump in rubber prices.
Those small businesses have an average credit line of around Bt1 million with the bank.
As to NPL customers that the bank cannot contact, some of |which have had to close their |businesses, SME Bank plans to |sell NPLs totalling Bt1 billion to asset-management companies in order to lower its bad-loan ratio, he added.