4th annual policy assessment of Thai banks shows steps forward on environment, governance and gender equality
Involvement with financial institutions varies from person to person. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the resulting economic downturn has, however created more links between financial institutions and people’s lives.
With greater expectations from society regarding the behavior of financial institutions, for the fourth year Fair Finance Thailand implemented the ‘Fair Finance Standards’, according to the methodology of Fair Finance International, with the aim of encouraging the Thai financial sector to take up the concept and practice of true sustainable banking. Very positively this year assessments have shown discovered tangible improvements across all the criteria.
From 2018 until now a total of 4 banks were being assessed. This year, however 8 banks were assessed. These are Bangkok Bank, Kasikornbank, Krung Thai Bank, Siam Commercial Bank, Bank of Ayudhya, TMBThanachart Bank, Kiatnakin Phatra Bank and TISCO Bank, along with 3 government specialized financial institutions namely the Government Savings Bank, the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives and the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Bank of Thailand.
This 4th annual policy assessment applies 13 themes of the Fair Finance Guide International (FFGI) Methodology 2020 to assess publicly disclosed policies from financial institutions as of 31 October 2021.
2021 – a year of score improvement
The 4th annual bank policy assessment clearly reveals an overall score improvement across various themes. The average score of the 11 banks rose by 20.85% from 25.37% to 30.66%.
More detailed analysis shows that 8 banks' average scores soared by 23.98% to 34.98% as compared to 28.22% in the year prior. Furthermore, 3 of the government specialized financial institutions who have only been assessed for the second time, received an average score of 19.12% increasing by 15.77% from 16.52% in their first year.
The 4 banks that demonstrate the highest score improvement are Krung Thai Bank, Bank of Ayudhya, Kasikornbank and Siam Commercial Bank, with increases of 50.40%, 45.65%, 40.88% and 23.83%, respectively. Moreover, the Government Savings Bank, the government specialized financial institution, increased its score by 30.68% as compared to last year. This overall outcome displays striking progress for both the commercial and government specialized financial institutions.
Thai banks pay more attention to ESG Risks in 2021
‘ESG Risks’ or the environmental social and governance risks are gaining increasing attention from the banks, which is reflected in the score improvements in the ‘human rights’, ‘health’, and ‘climate change’ criteria. Records of these themes fell flat in previous appraisals, however, the 2021 assessment shows a more positive overall direction across the 3 themes.
Considering the banks’ policies in each theme compared to the year 2020, ‘human rights’ revealed the highest improvement achieving a total of 9 criteria as compared to 5 last year. There are 6 banks receiving a score in this theme; Bangkok Bank, Krung Thai Bank, Siam Commercial Bank, TMBThanachart Bank, Kasikornbank and Kiatnakin Phatra Bank.
All financial institutions received a score in the “human rights” criterion by committing to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. However TMBThanachart Bank stood out among peers by announcing adherence to the additional human rights code of conduct, thus aligning with the international best practices for its customers in such areas as relocation compensation, social impact evaluation system and whistleblower processes.
‘Health’ is the newly added theme in 2020 assessment and still displays low score when benchmarking with others. The result of this annual assessment was, interestingly, boosted from 0.6 to 5.5 or receiving a higher score from 1 element to 8 elements. TMBThanachart Bank fulfilled this criteria for the first time this year by designating their customers’ respect for labor rights concerning health and safety at work, as described in the ILO conventions and the MNE Declaration. Bangkok Bank achieved their score by respecting international agreements on the production and the use of hazardous or toxic substances as described in the Montreal Protocol (on substances that deplete the ozone layer) while Krungthai Bank and Kasikornbank also scored by encouraging customers’ respect on international agreements on the production and the use of hazardous or toxic substances as described in the Stockholm Convention (on Persistent Organic Pollutants: POPs).
In the ‘Climate Change’ theme, the 5 scorers are Kasikornbank, Krung Thai Bank, TMBThanachart Bank, Siam Commercial Bank and Bank of Ayudhya. Siam Commercial Bank turned around this year following previous years in which it had received no score and Bank of Ayudhya also accomplished a mark for the first time. Thai banks also received a score in 2 criteria related to measuring and disclosing climate-related impacts in line with the recommendations by the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures, and encouraging the companies to switch from using fossil fuels to using renewable energy sources for the first time.
Gender equality gains more attention from the banks
In this 4th annual policy assessment gender equality showed an interesting improvement in contrast to the relatively low result of Thai banks in the years before. The average score grew from 3.3% to 10.3% with the top scorers being Bangkok Bank, Siam Commercial Bank, Krung Thai Bank, Kasikornbank, Bank of Ayudhya, TMBThanachart Bank, TISCO Bank, Kiatnakin Phatra Bank, Government Savings Bank and Small and Medium Enterprise Development Bank of Thailand.
One of the awarded elements for Bangkok Bank, Siam Commercial Bank, Krung Thai Bank, Kasikornbank, TMBThanachart Bank is the establishment of salary and bonus pay equity policies and the disclosure of the gender pay gap. Furthermore, Bangkok Bank, Krung Thai Bank, Kasikornbank and Kiatnakin Phatra Bank also received a score by announcing a policy committing to zero tolerance towards all forms of gender-based discrimination, as well as any verbal, physical and sexual harassment.
In addition, scores were granted to Siam Commercial Bank, Government Savings Bank and Small and Medium Enterprise Development Bank of Thailand for having or guaranteeing the participation and equal access of women at Board of Directors, Executive positions, and Senior management level at no less than 40% of all employees.
Most financial institutions scored in the gender equality theme for the first year and demonstrated interesting score development as a result of the protection from all forms of harassment and the endorsement of gender equality in employment and occupation.
Financial inclusion and consumer protection, the new course for fair living
‘Financial inclusion’ and ‘consumer protection’ often result in high scores in the assessments. For this assessment most banks adopted even more specific policies addressing these themes which was reflected in higher scoring results.
With regard to consumer protection, many banks publish their policies, procedures and their representative company regarding debts collection. Disclosure includes the accountability of financial institutions in case of robbery, theft and fraud involving customers in bank branches, ATMs together with the internet and authorized agents’ malpractices.
Several banks also have various policies to provide accessibility for disabled customers or those with special needs at all physical branches and online platforms. Bangkok Bank, Siam Commercial Bank, Krung Thai Bank and TMBThanachart Bank implemented a system facilitating customers with visual impairments to access their financial services.
The majority of Thai banks received a considerably high score in the ‘consumer protection’ with a peak of 8.57 out of 10. Meanwhile, no Thai banks scored lower than last year's assessment.
As for ‘financial inclusion’, no bank gained a lower score than 20% of the total. Well-received digital banking and the expansion of financial services to poorer SME (Small and Medium-sized Enterprises) groups contributed to the score improvement at 64.4% from 57.1%.
Significant progress was seen by Krung Thai Bank, Kasikornbank, Bangkok Bank, TMBThanachart Bank and Government Savings Bank for not charging clients or only charging a small fee for clients to open basic bank accounts. Bangkok Bank, TMBThanachart Bank, Siam Commercial Bank, Kasikornbank, Bank of Ayudhya, Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives and Small and Medium Enterprise Development Bank of Thailand also published clearer standards and provided publicly disclosed information on credit processing time. Siam Commercial Bank adopted a policy on disclosing client’s rights and risks on products or services (including risk of over indebtedness) to clients with low literacy levels and MSMEs (Micro Enterprise and SMEs).
The score trends in both ‘consumer protection’ and ‘financial inclusion’ themes thus illustrate financial institutions’ responsibility through various protection standards while also maintaining alert to the novel development of financial technology (Fintech), encouraging a more accessible and safe financial services for the consumers.
This 4th annual Thai banks policy assessment shows an enthusiasm for improvement across all themes, especially with the substantial scoring increase in social and environmental responsibilities. From this it could be expected that Thai financial institutions will continue to develop their policies and practices towards fairer finance standards, the new norm of sustainable finance.
Fair Finance Thailand is comprised of Sal Forest Co. Ltd., the Foundation for Consumers, EnLaw Foundation, Ecological Alert and Recovery (EARTH) Foundation and International Rivers.