What new initiatives is Bualuang Securities currently involved in?
SITHI-AMNUAI: We have done quite a few things in this market because we feel that we need to increase the number of investors in Thailand. We give a lot of tools to investors. For example, we have come up with an application called iChannel on iOS, so our customers can listen to, and watch, our research analysts’ live broadcast every morning. They can read our research papers on the application as well. We have also launched another application called iExcel where you can get the market data feed from us. You can also download a template so you can do your own calculations, select stocks, among many other things.
How would you describe the competition between financial advisory firms here in Thailand?
SITHI-AMNUAI: In the past people might think that we are on fixed commission. But during the last two years, we have what we call a slide scale commission rate. Early last year we completely liberalized our commissions. We are very competitive and the market is very competitive.
What are Bualuang Securities main competitive advantages?
SITHI-AMNUAI: We try to innovate. For example, we just launched a program called the Stock Master, which we describe as a reality show. We ask people to come in and compete like a normal television show. They have to invest 100,000 Baht ($3,250). They have to come to a class for eight weeks and we select twenty-eight contestants. This is the first time in Thailand we use the money of the investors themselves in the competition. Normally the Stock Exchange will use a click-to-win game for people to try to invest in the stock market. This is the real thing and we also educate them. It is interesting because they do not really compete with each other. They come and share the experience of trading and investing. They learn from each other. In the end they do not care much about who received the best returns. The build friendships and share knowledge, which is beyond what we expected. We did this through Facebook’s interface, so this knowledge sharing can be broadened through cyberspace.
How have volumes for derivatives and futures grown in Thailand? What are your projections?
SITHI-AMNUAI: It is very interesting because the futures market in Thailand is still very young. People in the investment world have known these instruments for a long time, but the market just introduced them a few years ago. If you look at futures in Thailand, the numbers have doubled in the last few years. We believe it will grow as people continue to put more products in. In 2011, we saw about 3bn – 4bn Baht ($98m - $130m), and before the end of 2012, it was probably more than 5bn Baht ($163m). We are also planning to get involved in this market. In these ways, the derivative market will grow bigger in Thailand. It will not be as sophisticated as the United States or Hong Kong, but Thailand will see improvements and increases in derivative markets. We also do derivative warrants, and we are number one in terms of volume trading in that sense.
How has the Global Financial Crisis impacted the financial service sector as a whole?
SITHI-AMNUAI: It is very interesting to see how the Thai market and the Asian market have benefited from the crisis. The uncertainty in the market in Europe has drawn investors into these markets. Our strong internal domestic growth has generated a great deal of investment interest in Thailand, especially in domestic related stocks, consumer products, and commerce. This strong growth in domestic consumption has made the Thai market more interesting.
What are your future projections for capital markets in Thailand?
SITHI-AMNUAI: We believe that the market should grow more. We feel that this is the time for growth and with the domestic opportunities we feel the Thai corporates are very strong right now. During the past few years, Thai corporates have invested a lot abroad and it is time they grow bigger. This also reflects on the Thai capital markets themselves. This will help bring more investors to Thailand and make the market stronger.
The derivative market will grow bigger in Thailand. It will not be as sophisticated as the United States or Hong Kong, but Thailand will see improvements and increases in derivative markets.
Which specific indicators are showing positive signs and which ones still present challenges?
SITHI-AMNUAI: If you look at the market itself, we have the second best return in the world. One of the challenges we have is the number of investors in the market. If you look at the Thai market, we have only 400,000 investors from a population of 70 million. That is a challenge we need to address. The local investors also do not make up a great proportion of investors, which we need to improve upon. We need to strengthen the mix of investors in Thailand.
How are volumes currently doing in the Thai markets?
SITHI-AMNUAI: When I first joined this company almost four years ago, volumes were at a low point around 5bn Baht ($163m) a day, but right now we have around 30bn ($977m) Baht a day. Volumes are very steady. Liberalization was worrisome at first, as it made the market more volatile. That is the pressure on the commission rate. But we still hold to that number, making everyone work harder to deliver the best service to the customer.