By PHUWIT LIMVIPHUWAT
THE NATION WEEKEND
Wichit drew on the experiences of his older brother Chatchai, who had risen steadily through the ranks as a senior banker.
Wichit earned his stripes at a number of financial institutions before becoming the chief executive of Summit Capital, one of Thailand’s biggest motorcycle hire-purchase companies.
His role model Chatchai, who graduated from Thammasat University in Bangkok, had worked in Kasikornbank and now serves as the president and CEO of Government Savings Bank.
“In a Chinese-Thai family, the biggest brother is often viewed as another father figure by his younger siblings.
When my father passed away, my bigger brother became like my father; he was my role model,” Wichit says in an exclusive interview with The Nation Weekend.
“For this reason, I was attracted to his career choice, in particular. Seeing the kind of challenges he faced in the banking industry inspired me to follow him and enter the industry myself.”
His first job after graduating with a master’s degree in the US was with American Express (Thailand).
“This job taught me the foundations of the retail banking industry. One of the key reasons for my choosing American Express as my first post-graduation job was the prospect of fostering strong marketing skills in the credit card business,” he says.
“This is because, at the time, credit card businesses had the highest requirements for marketing activities when compared to other retail banking businesses such as personal loans or mortgages.”
Another key factor in his choice of American Express was that he wanted to work in a company with an “American working culture”, which was “progressive, aggressive and egalitarian”.
“The working culture was not limited by seniority. As long as you had the skills and determination, everything was possible. This was very different from the Thai working culture back then, where you could not become CEO unless you were one of the oldest employees,” he recalls.
After working for American Express for seven years, Wichit joined Ayudhya Allianz CP (AACP) Life Assurance as its chief marketing officer.
Wichit admits that this appointment deviated slightly from his original plan of working in the banking industry. However, he saw the value of working for a life insurance company and joined AACP in 1998.
“By the time I left AACP in 2004, I had helped the company rise to become the second-largest life insurance firm in the country,” he says.
“When I joined AACP, the marketing department consisted only of me, my secretary and a management trainee. On my second day, my secretary left, leaving me with just my management trainee,” Wichit says with a laugh as he reflects on what became his growing attachment for his AACP post.
“Seven years later, I became the deputy CEO at AACP, and the marketing department consisted of up to 140 employees, with an additional 800 employees in the sales department. I facilitated the growth of AACP’s marketing and sales teams, growing from only two employees to almost a thousand.
This task was both challenging and fun, but most importantly, it fostered a kind of attachment within me towards my department in AACP.”
Despite the success Wichit had at the life insurance firm, when the offer came for him to work at banking giant HSBC, he was willing to move on from AACP to pursue his dream of becoming a banker.
“Leaving AACP was bitter-sweet. I had seen my department grow from nothing into one of the country’s most successful marketing departments in the life insurance industry. However, being a banker was my original dream, and I was determined to make it come true,” he recalls.
It was at HSBC that Wichit finally had the opportunity to work directly in the retail banking business again as its head of retail banking and wealth management unit, and in 2012 he joined the Bank of Ayudhya (Krungsi) as its executive vice president. Then, in 2014, Wichit became the CEO of Summit Capital.
“Despite it being a much smaller company, I left my post at Krungsi and joined Summit Capital because Summit Capital offered a new experience in retail banking for me,” he says. “I was curious about how financial institutions can offer loans to a customer segment with almost no proper financial assets.”
In all of Wichit’s former posts in the retail banking business, be it with American Express, HSBC or Krungsi, all his clients were middle to high-income consumers. However, the key customer segment for Summit Capital is different; they are low-income members of the grassroots economy.
“This uniqueness of Summit Capital presented a new challenge for me, and I felt that without having worked with high, middle and lower-income clients, my dream of becoming a master of retail banking would not have been fully realised,” he says.
Wichit credits the adaptability and flexibility of his employees at Summit Capital for allowing him to implement his business expansion strategies, leading to the rapid growth of the motorcycle hire-purchase company.
He has continually expanded Summit Capital’s market, enlarging its total number of booked contracts from 3,000 a month to 10,000 in just five years. This has helped profits to expand by tenfold.
The key to growing a business, as Wichit has done with various companies throughout his career, is a long-term master plan.
“I used the first three months of my position as Summit Capital’s CEO to get familiar with the company and its position in the market,” he says. “Then, I wrote a five-year master plan to expand the market of Summit Capital. Since then, we have not diverted from the expansionary master plan and have seen continual growth in our market share, assets and profits.”
A company’s master plan, says Wichit, is the key to expanding a business through effective management.
“A well-thought-out long-term master plan and a clear overall business direction is a necessary component to growing a company quickly,” he says. “If a company changes its overall direction every year, it will move from left to right instead of forwards. Firms need to stick to their master plans and execute them properly.”