One of Myanmar's biggest privately owned banks aims to use Singapore's prime location as a launch pad to expand its commercial presence in the region.
U Nyo Myint, senior managing director of Kanbawza Bank (KBZ Bank), said yesterday: "The bank is one of the most successful banks in Myanmar and we would like to expand our commercial presence.
"We'd like to work closely with international banks in Singapore, and also (help) Singapore banks to get their licence in Myanmar."
Banks with this licence will be able to provide wholesale onshore banking services through a branch office in the country, which has opened up only in recent years. The bank, part of the KBZ Group, has opened a representative office in Singapore - the first Myanmar bank to do so.
The office at One Raffles Place is a gateway for Singaporean firms and other businesses looking for expertise or advice on operating in Myanmar. It provides information on regulatory requirements in both Myanmar and Singapore, and offers market research and feasibility studies on investment and business opportunities, and private-sector liaison services.
The Singapore office has five to seven permanent staff and, depending on market demands, more people could be hired in future, said Singapore-based KBZ Bank deputy managing director U Zaw Lin Aung.
Singapore is our gateway, and the businesses here are in compliance with international standards. The international network of Singaporeans and firms here is also huge. We have a lot to learn, and hope we can improve the quality of our business in Myanmar.
U NYO MYINT, senior managing director of KBZ Bank, on Singapore's prime location.
The bank was set up in 1996 and has around 400 branches across Myanmar, with total assets of more than US$5.5 billion (S$7.5 billion).
U Zaw Lin Aung said the bank is the largest out of 25 private commercial banks in the country.
Mr Dexter Tan, the bank's executive consultant, said it has a more than 40 per cent market share of the commercial banking business in Myanmar and almost 40 per cent of the country's deposits. He added: "There are a few banking licences in Singapore. Based on strategic plans, we will look at potential areas to explore. The representative office is our first strategic move."
KBZ Bank also opened a representative office in Thailand last month, and is planning to open one in Kuala Lumpur by the end of the year.
Despite the global challenges the banking industry is facing, Mr Tan said that there is a need to move abroad as "there will be a lot of investment flow in Myanmar, which is the last frontier (for investments and business opportunities)".
U Nyo Myint said: "Working with Singapore businesses from here means we are exposed to international markets.
"When it comes to trading, we need banks to work together, and Singapore banks are strong in international trade financing."
The bank already has ties with DBS Bank, OCBC Bank and United Overseas Bank in Myanmar.
Being in Singapore is important as it is Myanmar's second-largest investor after China, he added.
"Singapore is our gateway, and the businesses here are in compliance with international standards.
"The international network of Singaporeans and firms here is also huge. We have a lot to learn, and hope we can improve the quality of our business in Myanmar."