Vietnam is one of the foreign investors’ darlings

On the sidelines of the Invest Asia 2019 conference organized by Maybank Kim Eng in Singapore on May 9-10, The Saigon Times talked with Ami Moris, the new chief executive officer of Maybank Kim Eng, over whether Vietnam is an attractive investment destination. Amis Moris is responsible for all of Maybank Kim Eng’sinvestment banking, brokerage and derivatives business operations in ASEAN.

The Saigon Times: What is your overall impression of the Vietnamese economy now?

- Ami Moris: Without a doubt, Vietnam is really one of the darlings of investment portfolios. GDP growth of 6% to 7% puts Vietnam pretty much as one of the superior economic growth countries. You have a young and vibrant population that is very tech-savvy, and about two-thirds of the population are in the workforce. And given the very strong reforms and liberalization, a lot of interest is coming from foreign investors.

Which sectors in Vietnam do you think are attracting foreign investors?

- If you talk about foreign direct investment, we have seen the manufacturing sector continuing to receive the most money from investors, from 50% to over 70 or 75%. But you may know that it always receives more than half of the interest and money. So we got companies like Samsung, LG, Toshiba – the electronic goods manufacturers. Secondly, we have utilities in terms of power plants. Vietnamese people now use or consume more electricity than in the past.That's the second sector that we have seen more of the foreign money being poured in.

Last but certainly not least, we observe that many investors are also interested in putting money in developing hospitality (hotels, resorts, etc). Vietnam benefits from over 3,000 kilometers of coastline and the rich history and culture that we often talk about. These help Vietnam offer a very diverse and interesting mix to foreign investors.

But we also see foreign indirect investmentin consumer businesses since Vietnam hasover 95 million people now. We have observed that foreign investors are particularly interested in the banking sector too. There’s a lot of room for banking products and services. Last but certainly not least, there is the sector of real estate, either properties or residential products.

Maybank Kim Eng has been very successful in Vietnam so far. What would you do now in terms of strategy?

- When we first acquired Kim Eng in 2011, the main part of the business was the retail side. Over the last two years or so, we’ve significantly grown our institutional business, which is becoming a stronger component of our business in Vietnam. We have established a full investment banking team out of our Vietnam platform.

You expect a lot from your Vietnam team, right?

- Yes, of course. Because, as I've said, we are very excited about the prospect of Vietnam.

Financial services with a human face is somewhat Maybank Kim Eng’smotto. What does this mean to you?

- ASEAN is a significant region globally. It has over 630 million people growing very rapidly. Urbanization is happening everyday. People are migrating to cities. The expectation is that up to 100 million people will migrate to cities over the next five to seven years. All these naturally create a lot of possibilities. But for us, humanizing financial services means being part of accelerating the growth of ASEAN responsibly.

There are many ways to provide electricity to people who don't have electricity, for instance. There are many ways to drive economic growth. But what we want to be a part of is to make sure that the kind of products, services, financing, funding we provide takes into account the long-term growth potential rather than for short-term gains, and that we can help accelerate the growth of ASEAN in a very sustainable and responsible manner. And for the people we serve: we’re from ASEAN and for ASEAN people.

Do you have any community projects for Vietnam?

- We do have CR Daysthat we launched in every single market or country where we are present. Every year in September, if there are no changes, we will have a CR Day whereby as many Maybank Kim Eng people as possible would join social projects.

We have various programs carried out, like assisting blind people or providing computers for young kids. Even in Ho Chi Minh City, when we did a study or survey on how we can best help the community, we found out that even in this city, there are some areas that do not have electricity such as Can Gio. So we actually promote and encourage the extending of electricity grid to that area. We also provide computer rooms for young people in that area. We did that, I think, for two years from now.

We also help one primary school in Long An, next to Ho Chi Minh City, but a very poor area, whereby not all the children can go to school. It’s so cold here, in this Fullerton Hotel of Singapore, but over there it was so hot that we have to provide all the fans, put up the library, so on and so forth. I think working on the younger generation is the best way that we can play a part in building up a future for the country.

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