As more Thai investors turn their focus to digital assets, the country’s central bank is worried about commercial banks’ engagement in the industry and is attempting to restrict their exposure.
The Bank of Thailand (BOT) has issued a new directive requiring commercial banks to invest no more than 3% of their capital in digital asset firms, including exchanges. Furthermore, these banks are not permitted to participate directly in such enterprises and must instead do so via units, which the regulator claims will protect depositors’ and the banking system’s trust.
“By permitting only units to invest in digital assets, we will employ regulatory tools to ring-fence the banks.” We want banks to engage in digital assets gradually and with an emphasis on quality rather than rushing in for fear of falling behind,” Roong Mallikamas, the BOT’s deputy governor, disclosed.
This moratorium, like in the past, will benefit banks, according to Roong. Previously, the BOT limited banks’ involvement in fintech to only 3% of their total capital while it watched advances in the field. This restriction was eliminated on the same day that the new digital asset investment limit was implemented.
The measure comes at a time when Thai investors have been actively investing in digital assets. Thai investors now own $3.4 billion in digital assets, up from $280 million only a few years ago, according to statistics from the country’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). In that time, average daily transaction has increased 2,000 percent to $140 million, while the number of active accounts on exchanges has increased to just short of 2 million, up from 170,000.
Thai banks have already begun to make inroads into the digital asset market. Siam Commercial Bank, the oldest bank in Southeast Asia, paid $537 million in November last year for a 51 percent interest in Bitkub, Thailand’s biggest exchange, which some believe controls more than 90 percent of the market. However, this transaction has yet to be approved by authorities, including the central bank.