VietNamNet Bridge – Though foreign CEOs are commonly seen in privately run commercial banks, few banks where the state holds the controlling stake employ foreigners.
In October 2017, Vietcombank appointed the first foreign employee in the bank’s history. Thomas William Tobin from Visa International is director of the bank’s Retail Banking division.
Tobin is not a stranger to the Vietnamese finance market. He once held the post of CEO of HSBC Vietnam in 2006 and under his management, HSBC became the first foreign bank to set up a subsidiary in Vietnam.
In 2011, he left for Visa International and his seat was taken over by Sumit Dutta, who was director of Personal Finance Service division at Techcombank, a private bank.
Commenting about Vietcombank’s appointment, analysts said state-owned banks, which are more ‘conservative’ than private banks, are now more open but Vietcombank remains the only state-owned bank to hire foreign staff.
Among state-owned banks, BIDV (the Bank for Investment & development of Vietnam) still hasn’t sold a stake to foreign investors. The post of chair of the board of directors is still vacant.
Pham Quang Tung, chair of the Vietnam Development Bank (VDB), which specializes in providing loans to serve the government’s development projects, works at BIDV. But it is still unclear what his position is.
The business performance indexes of BIDV and VietinBank are not as good as Vietcombank’s.
In the first nine months of 2017, BIDV’s net interest margin increased significantly by 37.7 percent, higher than Vietcombank’s 18.4 percent and VietinBank’s 15.8 percent, but its post-tax profit growth rate was in the minus figures.
This was attributed to the high provisions against bad debts BIDV had to make. The bad debts of third, fourth and fifth groups increased by 19.5 percent compared with the same period last year.
The three banks have been trying to develop retail banking services while they have focused on wholesale in the past.
Developing retail banking is in fashion now, which, according to PwC, will be one of the five hottest growing sectors in the time to come.
Vietcombank’s chair Nghiem Xuan Thanh said qualified high personnel will play an important role in the bank’s path of retail banking.
He said the appointment of a foreign worker with experience and deep knowledge about the Vietnamese market to the post of director of retail banking shows the bank’s determination to become No 1 in retail banking in Vietnam by 2020.