Kasikornbank (KBank) is exploring an innovative form of services called decentralised finance (DeFi) using blockchain and independent of central financial intermediaries as it tries to grow its business regionally via the digital platform.

According to Ruangroj Poonpol, chairman of Kasikorn Business Technology Group (KBTG), a tech arm of KBank, KBTG recently established a subsidiary called Kubix to operate as an initial coin offering portal for digital tokens in a collaboration with the Stock Exchange of Thailand.

DeFi is a blockchain-based form of finance that does not rely on brokerages, exchanges or banks to offer traditional financial instruments. Instead, it utilises smart contracts on blockchains.

DeFi platforms allow people to lend or borrow funds from others, speculate on price movements on a range of assets using derivatives, trade cryptocurrencies, insure against risks and earn interest in savings-like accounts.

“DeFi is a key exploration for KBank Group this year,” said Mr Ruangroj.

“The project is being explored through KBTG under the second phase of the company’s digital transformation programme.”

The second phase covers 2021-2023 after finishing the first phase between 2018-2020, he said.

“Providing innovative financial services under DeFi should improve the country’s financial exclusion and allow Thais better access to financial services,” said Mr Ruangroj.

“With this asset-backed form, DeFi could also create economic value for Thailand.”

KBank aims to be a regional bank offering financial services and products through both offline and online channels.

To help it go digital, the local bank set up a technology hub in Vietnam called K-Hub in preparation for business operations there.

The bank was granted a licence to open a branch in Ho Chi Minh City in January.

KBank also established a tech company in Shenzhen, China named K-Tech China last year.

The group is looking to recruit more digital technology developers to grow its staff from 1,500 to 1,900 this year, covering Thailand, China and Vietnam.

KBank, Thailand’s second largest lender by total assets, has transformed to a digital banking service provider, handling 40% of the country’s total digital banking transitions.

It ranks No.1 in mobile banking with more than 16 million users for its mobile banking app.

The bank set a target of 17 million users by the end of this year.

Mr Ruangroj said KBTG set an ambitious goal to become a comprehensive regional tech company in Southeast Asia by 2025 to strengthen KBank’s goal of being a regional banking provider.