The Leaderboard profiles the people behind the policies of the Asia-Pacific. This post features Nguyen Duc Kien, co-Founder of Asia Commercial Bank in Vietnam.
Who is he?
Nguyen Duc Kien (commonly referred to as “Bau Kien”) is a well-connected tycoon in Vietnam’s banking and financial sector. Born in 1964, Kien is best known as the co-founder of Asia Commercial Bank (ACB), a well-respected private bank and fourth-largest lender in Vietnam. He sits on the board of a number of companies in the finance, tourism, and sporting industries. Kien is a native of Hanoi and received his training in military technology in Vietnam and Hungary. The nickname “Bau Kien” comes from his chairmanship and zealous leadership of the Hanoi Football Club. He has an estimated net worth of $92 million.
Why is he in the news?
Kien was arrested August 20 at his residence in Hanoi’s affluent West Lake district on suspicion of fraud at three of his private investment firms. While ACB has publicly said that Kien is no longer a major shareholder of the company, many banking stocks on the Hanoi Stock Exchange plummeted and depositors have pulled close to $300 million from the banking system since his arrest. Vietnam’s central bank was forced to pump more than $600 million into the banking system August 22 to ensure the liquidity of ACB and other banking institutions affiliated with Kien.
What can we expect from him?
Kien appears to be a harbinger of coming changes to Vietnam’s state-driven capitalist model. He belongs to a generation of businessmen that amassed their wealth through political connections when the Communist Party began opening up the country in the late 1980s. His arrest is a signal that the government’s crackdown on cronyism and corruption, which have destabilized and burdened the economy with bad debts, is picking up steam.
Prior to Kien’s headline-grabbing arrest, the government ousted a wealthy businesswoman from the National Assembly for failure to disclose that she was no longer a member of the Communist Party, and convicted executives at state-owned shipbuilder Vinashin on charges of graft. Authorities also arrested ACB director general Ly Xuan Hai three days after Kien’s detention. What is not clear is whether the well-connected Kien’s arrest marks a further crackdown on corruption and cronyism among the country’s elite business moguls or whether it was prompted by a power tussle within the top echelons of the party leadership.