Thailand: Tantakasem transforms TMB in a time of Covid
TMB Bank boss Piti Tantakasem gamed out everything in his careful pursuit of Thailand’s Thanachart Bank. Then came Covid to help him bed down the deal.
The Covid-19 pandemic was brutal. Businesses closed, economies collapsed and jobs were lost. Many banks closed temporarily, and some came perilously close to staying shut.
But Piti Tantakasem, chief executive of TMBThanachart, Thailand’s sixth-biggest bank, saw the pandemic as an opportunity.
“I think Covid was a blessing in disguise,” Tantakasem tells Asiamoney.
That is because the pandemic gave him time to bed down the biggest deal of his 25-year banking career – a $5 billion transaction merging TMB Bank with Thanachart Bank.
Tantakasem, now 51, takes Asiamoney back to January 1, 2018 (two years before coronavirus emerged in China and then spread to lock down the world), which was the day he started work as chief executive of TMB Bank. He arrived with big ambitions for one of Thailand’s stodgier banks.
“I saw that this bank will get stuck at [being] a mid-size bank for ever if I'm not going to do something with it,” he says. “It will become a bonsai for ever, never become a big tree.”
Tantakasem was determined to change that.
TMB was formerly Thai Military Bank, founded in 1957 by the then military chief, field marshal Sarit Thanarat, to serve the financial needs of the officers of Thailand’s armed forces.