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Can banks reposition themselves as fintech stocks?

The logo of Siam Commercial Bank is pictured at its office building in central Bangkok
Photo: Reuters

As legacy banks plough billions into fintech, their valuations – especially compared to standalone fintech players – are far from seeing the desired benefit. Spin-offs and subsidiary IPOs are part of a growing push to make these fintech investments more independent and visible, and to force a sum-of-parts valuation. Is the answer to restructure into a listed financial holding company, of which the legacy bank would just be one part?

Like a middle-aged banker wearing the latest sneakers and baseball cap, fintech makeovers can look a little forced. Previous attempts to turn centuries-old financial institutions into born-again technology companies have often ended in disappointment.

BBVA and ING’s recent sales and closures of international digital-banking businesses are cases in point.

But there is a growing sense, post-Covid, that incumbent financial institutions have no choice other than to try again and fail better, as fintech valuations have mushroomed.

Partly inspired by the growth of digital subsidiaries at Chinese insurance group Ping An, Siam Commercial Bank (SCB) is in the middle of what could be the traditional banking industry’s boldest leap yet in this direction. In November, the 114-year-old lender unveiled a plan to radically reorganize its shareholder structure, to prove just how much it can move beyond its legacy and expand outside Thailand.

SCB’s restructuring will see it delist in favour of a new financial holding company known as SCBX, under which traditional banking and asset gathering will be one of three pillars. A second pillar will house credit cards, auto finance and brokerage. A third pillar will be dedicated to new digital platforms and ventures.

SCB then plans to list the cards business, followed by Ping An-style IPOs of its new tech subsidiaries.

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Dominic O’Neill is EMEA editor. He joined Euromoney in 2007 to cover emerging markets, focusing on central and eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa, and later on Latin America. Based in London, he has covered developed market banking since 2015.
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