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Banking on sustainability - TMB Bank

Bangkok Post
3 February 2016

Under TMB's 'FAI-FAH In-A-Box' project, its local employees unite communities and help them stand on their own feet

TMB Bank recently won the Asia Corporate Excellence and Sustainability Awards (Aces), hosted by the MORS Group in Singapore, under the category Top Community Care Awards, making it Thailand's only company to win such an accolade.

The award the financial institution took home recognises its main CSR activity "FAI-FAH In-A-Box" where the bank gets in touch with communities its branches have a presence in.

Piloted in 2014, FAI-FAH In-A-Box is a project through which TMB dispatches voluntary employees from its own particular branches to interact with the communities they are nestled in for three months so that they can contribute something based on the community's needs. The project kicked off with four branches in Bangkok in 2014 and 18 more were added onto the list across the country in 2015. Last year's project began in May.

Some highlighted communities have included the Keha Chumchon Rangsit community, in which the bank helped improve the quality of the canal in the national housing community; in Klong Yai Jiew community in Bang Pu, Samut Prakan, where the bank gave a lively facelift to the cemented walls located by the sea and provided knowledge on eco-tourism to residents; and in the community of South Sathon, where the bank helped develop a cultural tour called "The Journey" and trained local children in the community to be tour guides.

"I believe that giving something back that is sustainable is the most important thing," said Choompoonoot Pathomporn, TMB's executive vice-president of Branch Banking. "If it's giving money or something temporarily convenient, it is either very short-lived or enough for us to make news out of it for some time, at least. But at the end of the day, money runs out. We want sustainability and that ultimately translates into giving these people what they really need."

The idea of sustainability, however, is not only highlighted in this project but has also been present in other CSR projects by TMB. The original "FAI FAH" project, where the bank built all-inclusive learning centres in Bangkok and is the project that the FAI-FAH In-A-Box sprang from, has also brought sustainability and commitment to the fore. The first learning centre was completed in 2010 and was followed by another two in 2012 and one in 2015.

The four centres teach art and life skills for youths aged between 12 and 19 who come from high-need backgrounds, serving as a place where they can have the opportunity to pursue interests that are normally inaccessible to them, such as music, sports or cooking.

As the FAI-FAH In-A-Box project came to an end, the bank has also been constantly following up to see whether there are any setbacks with what they have left behind. One group that seems to be thriving after the intervention of TMB is Ratchasub, an 11 rai neighbourhood in Bang Sue. 

Despite being packed with more than 600 residents from 172 households, the community now has a dynamic business that brings everyone together and keeps them united. Residents are busy running the communal business that sells mushrooms, which was started in 2011. At first, they struggled with finding interested customers and a market for the mushrooms, yet things turned when the bank gave them a new mushroom growing facility and equipped them with know-how.

"At first, they asked us what we wanted," said Rujirat Haravee, president of Ratchasub community. "Then upon finding out that we had our mushroom business, they came up with an idea and asked whether we wanted to have a new mushroom house. We said of course. After that, they also asked us if they could later take us to study how to make the most use of mushrooms at a FAI-FAH learning centre as the produce coming from the new facility would be a lot."

Rujirat tagged along with around 20 of her neighbours from the community to one of the FAI-FAH centres. They spent three months learning how to turn mushroom into chips, drinks and curry puffs with the youth at the centre. Logos, packages, business plans and channels to sell their products were also thought up for them by participating employees from the branch that were in charge of the community in the project. 

"TMB wanted us to be able to stand on our own feet," Rujirat said. "They didn't have to sit down and feed us. We were given a chance to do something ourselves that we could be proud of."

Plans for the project for the third-year are underway, with TMB hoping to work with 37 communities this year. The project is set to launch late this month.

"One thing that makes me feel good when going to a community is when we make them feel proud of that community," Choompoonoot said. "Actually, we don't do much at all. We just let them know that their community is good. And with our presence there, it sometimes makes them realise something else. They come to the conclusion that if we can help them, then why can't they help each other. This results in them trying to take it further, which, of course, goes back to our goal of sustainability." 

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