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Banking & Finance

Thai banks implement blockchain to become regional epicenter of fintech

Thailand's Kasikornbank has developed an issuance system for letters of guarantee based on IBM's blockchain infrastructure.

BANGKOK -- Kasikornbank, Thailand's fourth-largest lender by assets, has developed a document certification system using blockchain technology and will launch it early next year, becoming one of the country's first service providers to use the technology.

The move follows other Thai lenders eying to spearhead the use of fintech in the region. Last month, Siam Commercial Bank, Thailand's third-largest, invested in Ripple, a San Francisco-based provider of financial settlement solutions, to study the use of blockchain technology in cross-border transactions. Bangkok Bank, the largest lender, joined a consortium led by R3, a U.S.-based blockchain technology company, in August. The consortium, which consists of more than 50 financial institutions around the world, is developing a common distributed ledger platform for financial services.

Kasikornbank's application service, called OriginCert API, was developed using information technology giant IBM's blockchain infrastructure and can be used to share electronic letters of guarantee issued by the bank with clients and beneficiaries. It would save time and cost when issuing and verifying a letter of guarantee "tremendously," Somkid Jiranuntarat, vice chairman of Kasikorn Business Technology Group, told reporters on Thursday.

Kasikornbank is the first Thai company to develop an actual service based on blockchain technology, he said.

Several state-owned companies, such as oil and gas company PTT and the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, have been invited to join the pilot launch scheduled for early next year. Somkid said he is working to get other banks to join the system as well.

"Blockchain is still new to Thailand," he said. "Getting other parties involved is the difficult task."

Parnsiree Amatayakul, managing director of IBM Thailand, said the company is in talks with the country's central bank and stock exchange to adopt the technology. "In Thailand, we are seeing [that] banks are taking the lead in blockchain, and I believe that in one year, we will see a fast adoption rate," she said.

In Southeast Asia, Singapore, the region's financial hub, has been a hotbed for blockchain technology. IBM opened its first Center for Blockchain Innovation in the country to push development of the technology from basic research to industry collaboration.

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