#STACS series : “Digital Transformation for Tomorrow” Episode 2 : Ms. Benja Supannakul, Partner, Financial Service Department of Baker McKenzie
Ms. Benja Supannakul is a partner in the Bangkok office of Baker McKenzie. She joined Baker McKenzie in 2001 and specialises in the area of financial products including but not limited to derivatives, structured products, structured finance, wealth management, private banking, fund management, and debt capital market, especially with regards to the regulatory matters. She is also the Thai legal counsel for International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA) and regularly advises international banks, capital markets intermediaries, fund managers, insurance companies, and other financial institutions on financial services compliance and regulatory matters. She has been recognised by several of the world’s leading legal directories. Ms. Benja shared her insights and analysis on the topic “Digital transformation in the new normal — Blockchain developments in the industry” from the legal perspective.
In our interview, she described the two main challenges that her company has been confronted with during the COVID-19 pandemic. The first being the external challenges surrounding trying to keep the employees safe, while maintaining efficiency, productivity, and quality of work by being adaptive. The second is an internal challenge on keeping connected with business partners, because most of their clients work from home. The Bangkok office of Baker McKenzie has already implemented this digital practice transition prior to the lockdown: “The signature topic becomes a hot topic in Thailand; our government Digital Ministry issued a recent guideline on what should be the transfer of electronic signature. We need to face the challenge on our side to advise our clients.”
Ms. Benja highlighted the importance of regulation in this fast-growing and evolving innovative climate. In reality, innovations need market development, and the regulators and existing market regulations play a key role. An example would be the Know-Your-Customer (KYC) technology, which has become more prevalent during the pandemic.
In terms of investment products, the market players have a significant role in the implementation of more advanced regulations. She shared that in Thailand, 30% of the market share of the investment high yield bonds are held by retail investors. “In Thailand, the regulators occupy a proactive role in terms of establishing formal advance regulations, for example with the Project Inthanon of the Bank of Thailand, who implemented DLT in a real-time process settlement with the collaboration of eight commercial banks. The project has been completed successfully with their three phases and this is an example of how regulators carry out a leading role in putting more advanced regulations, and try to facilitate and accommodate the market player to implement the technology.”
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of Thailand announced a Capital Market Development Plan, which involves pushing the implementation of innovative technologies like blockchain, providing services in the capital market, and fundraising. Baker McKenzie is part of this project and plays the role of legal advisor to the Thai SEC. As legal counsel, Baker McKenzie assists and advises them in their journey to achieve their three main objectives: increase the efficiency of the market, reduce cost, and facilitate market accessibility in the next three years’ time.