In at the IR deep end with Kasikornbank
‘It wasn’t a fun year.’ That’s how Dr Adit Laixuthai describes his first 12 months in IR at Kasikornbank. He arrived at KBank in 1999, when the Thai company was still reeling from the Asian financial crisis that had sunk currencies and stock markets across the region.
Dr Adit Laixuthai moved into investor relations at Kasikornbank in 1999, two years after the onset of the Asian financial crisis
‘In that year, I recall that our non-performing loans were maybe more than 40 percent of our total loans, so I would regard that as perhaps the peak of the crisis,’ Laixuthai explains.
Adding to the challenge, he joined with little knowledge of the profession, entering a department in flux; just one member from the former team stayed on to work with him, he recalls. What’s more, KBank needed more capital so, shortly after starting, Laixuthai went out on the road with the CEO to help raise funds from the global investment community.
The new arrival, however, saw opportunity amid the upheaval. Laixuthai says the fact he had to ‘start from zero’ was a ‘blessing in disguise’, allowing him to establish his own team.
The crisis also taught him – and the bank – valuable lessons for the future. ‘We learned that capital could be extremely expensive or very hard to find,’ he says.
After studying economics in Thailand and the US, Laixuthai began his career with several roles in research and academia. The chance to join IR came when a friend at KBank asked if he would be interested in an IR role.
He accepted the job based on a few factors. It was ‘intriguing’ to do something different from research tasks, he says, plus there was the appeal of working for one of Thailand’s biggest corporate brands. ‘On top of everything else, I thought maybe investor relations was the area to be explored,’ he says. ‘So I took the job.’
Fourteen years on, Laixuthai heads up KBank’s IR function, as well as holding several other senior positions, including company secretary and head of the corporate secretariat division. During that time, the bank has been at the forefront of IR in Thailand, winning multiple times at the IR Magazine Awards – South East Asia.
Looking back, Laixuthai talks up a long career in IR. ‘In 1999, the credibility of the whole country was at a very low level, so it was a tough time to answer questions; it was a tough time to do business,’ he recalls.
‘But it was a very good period to learn about the cycle. That’s what I value most as an IR person: that I have gone through a major economic cycle in Thailand, and all that experience has helped me to form a very good IR team.’
1989-1994: Senior analyst, health economics program, National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, US
1994-1997: Lecturer and research fellow in health finance/economics, College of Public Health, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand
1997-1999: Senior researcher, department of money and banking, Kasikorn Research Center
1999-September 1999: Department head of corporate service business unit, Kasikorn Research Center