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Nava's future uncertain after Thanadee's death

 

THE future of Nava Finance and Securities Plc has plunged into uncertainty following the death of its executive chairman and CEO, Thanadee Sophonsiri. He was 59.

Thanadee underwent bypass surgery in a US hospital early this year. Since then his health had deteriorated and prevented him from resuming an active role in managing the Bt55 billion organisation he joined in 1991.

Thanadee passed away at around 2 am yesterday morning due to heart complications. He is survived by his wife and two children.

His untimely death brought sorrow and grief to Nava, which is attempting to redefine its business and chart a fresh course amid the turbulence in the finance and securities industry. He was loved and respected by his staff and colleagues, who considered him an old pro.

An old pro he certainly was. He had the advantages of working both in the corporate and financial worlds, which endowed him with a business-like attitude. After graduating with an associate degree in engineering from Chulalongkorn University, he went on to earn his bachelor and master's degrees in engineering from California State University.

In 1969 Thandadee joined Chase Manhattan Bank, where he would dedicate his formative years over the following seven years. He then left to join Siam Sanwa Industrial Credit Co, where he would remain until Bangkok celebrated its 250th anniversary in 1982.

The following decade saw him working in the corporate sector as a senior executive in Charoen Pokphand Group, Thailand's largest conglomerate. After Banque Indosuez bought into Nava, its general manager, Chaktip Nitibhon, recommended Thanadee, a complete outsider, as president of Nava. The Nava board gave him its vote of confidence.

Nava is a finance and securities subsidiary of Thai Military Bank, which, unlike most Thai banks, is not family controlled. Since Thanadee considered himself a professional, he committed himself to running Nava as a professional organisation.

As a result, he surrounded himself with young professionals. The Chase alumni appear to have been his favourites, and they quickly climbed the corporate ladder under his leadership.

Fortunately, Thai Military Bank is not a hands-on type of parent company. The bank gives Nava a high degree of freedom to run its business the way it sees fit. By tradition, the president of Thai Military Bank takes over the chairmanship of Nava.

Thai Military Bank president Thanong Bidhiya was reported to be on good terms with Thanadee. He once remarked that as long as he was in charge of Thai Military Bank, no one would be allowed to meddle in Nava's affairs.

Owing to Thanong's professional approach, Nava has enjoyed the freedom it needs to pursue its business objectives without having to worry about factional interests, which most other organisations have to accommodate. Thanadee was a generation older than the arrogant financiers who have ruled the Thai financial world over the past decade. It was perhaps this generation gap that helped Thanadee be more conservative than the financiers, who are in their thirties or forties and have never gone through a business down cycle.

Nava has so far been spared the wrath of the property crisis, the stock market meltdown and the non-performing loan syndrome that most other finance companies are facing. It was largely thanks to Thanadee that Nava managed its business professionally so that it is not suffering from bad loans ploughed into its subsidiaries.

Most other finance companies, from Bangkok Bank of Commerce to Finance One Plc, are falling to their knees under the weight of bad debts incurred by their subsidiaries. The pocketbooks of subsidiaries and management are the root of all the sins in the finance rector.

Thanadee can rest in peace, knowing that Nava is a legacy of his integrity.

 

BY THANONG KHANTHONG

 

 

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