Will StanChart and NTUC’s digital bank, Phoenix, be granted the coveted digital banking license in Singapore

Will StanChart and NTUC’s digital bank, Phoenix, be granted the coveted digital banking license in Singapore?

Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has resumed the assessment process to award its five coveted digital banking licenses and stated that the winners will be announced in H2 2020.  In April 2020, amid the pandemic concerns, the assessment process was put on hold and the 21 applicants were asked to review their business proposals, assumptions, valuations underpinning their financial projections keeping in mind the immediate and post pandemic impact on its business.

With the resumption of the assessment process, MAS announced in June 2020 that it will go ahead with reviewing 14 of the 21 applications stating that “eligible applicants, comprising five digital full bank (DFB) applicants and nine digital wholesale bank (DWB) applicants, will progress to the next stage of assessment”, doing so without revealing any names or bid details. This being said, certain applicants – SEA Ltd and Ant Financial and consortiums such as Grab and Singtel, Razer and Sheng Siong Holdings, FWD, LinkSure Global, Insignia Ventures Partners, Carro and iFast Corporation partnering with Hande Group & Yillion Group – have made their bids public.

While acquiring a digital banking license seems pivotal for all these players, most of them come with bare minimum experience of operating a bank. While having relevant experience when venturing into a new business is a stereotypical question, a relevant one is who are these applicants going to service? Singapore with a population of about 5.9 million has an internet penetration of about 88% according to a survey. Also mobile app banking in Singapore stand at about 65%.  Considering this, it’s hard to think of what value proposition could the 14 applicants bring which differentiates them from other banks? The simple answer to this is to serve the underserved SME sector and workers from unorganized sectors. This digital banking license could foster healthy competition, liberalise banking while being resilient. Companies which want to include financial services as a part of their company portfolio have the chance to use this offering to their advantage.

Another good news for StanChart is that it was recently qualified as a Significantly Rooted Foreign Bank (SRFB) in Singapore. According to the SRFB Framework, the bank can now “establish up to 50 POBs, of which up to 35 may be branches.”

While this is true for the known contenders, an unannounced applicant named Phoenix – a consortium of NTUC and Standard Chartered is also in the race for the digital banking license. While contemplating who could head the digital banking initiative in Singapore, TDB perceives co-founders of neobanks such as Judo Bank, Xinja or 86 400  could be credible candidates for this role. For those unaware, Standard Chartered forayed into Africa in 2018 with a digital-only bank in Côte d’Ivoire (CDI) following it up with Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana and Kenya in 2019.  Armed with this information, it is obvious why Standard Chartered is entering the race for the digital banking license in Singapore. The bank is well positioned to take advantage of this offering and with success projects in Africa, StanChart is uniquely qualified to come out a winner. Also, one of the key items in the business proposal for the digital banking license application must include regional expansion plans. This would provide the much needed entry point into Southeast Asian markets which hold similar value propositions as Africa.

Another good news for StanChart is that it was recently qualified as a Significantly Rooted Foreign Bank (SRFB) in Singapore. According to the SRFB Framework, the bank can now “establish up to 50 POBs, of which up to 35 may be branches.” Not only this MAS is considering enhancements to the framework which will grant “additional full bank licence to an SRFB that substantially exceeds the SRFB baseline criteria. This will enable them (SRFB) to have the same flexibility as Singapore-incorporated banking groups to establish subsidiaries, including with joint-venture partners, to operate new or alternative business models such as a digital-only bank.” With all this being said, StanChart seems to be in the right place to use’s MAS’s proposition.


Image: mimisim / Shutterstock.com

The Digital Banker - TDB - Blog

TDB Digest – What’s Cooking in the FinTech and Banking Industry (Issue 5)

Digital Banking News

  • UOB launched TMRW – it’s digital bank for the ASEAN in Indonesia last week. TMRW was first launched in Thailand in 2019 and within the span of a year has paved way into Indonesia. This award winning digital bank was recognised by The Digital Banker in various digital award categories. TMRW simplifies banking, translating transaction data into actionable insights using AI and data analytics in-turn helping customers save and spend accordingly.

Fintech and Bank Collaboration

  • Standard Chartered and Truera: The bank has partnered with Truera, a US based start-up to and will use Truera’s Model Intelligence to improve the machine learning and artificial intelligence based decision making while removing unjust biases which result in unfair decisions. Standard Chartered – active proponents of use of data analytics and AI will also continue working with Truera to use and improve the intelligence platform across several AI use

Singapore in Focus

  • Grab  – a leading fintech platform in south-east Asia announced a suite of financial products and services via Grab Financial Group. Building on last year’s ‘Grow with Grab’ initiative which focused on merchant financial services, the company is now fostering the “Thrive with Grab” initiative, a “consumer ecosystem by launching new lending, wealth and insurance products in Singapore and the region in order to provide financial services for consumers”. Under this initiative, AutoInvest – micro-investment solution will drive range of consumer offerings such as  invest small sums, consumer loans via our third-party loan platform and buy-now-pay-later payment schemes.
  • The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) recently reviewed its Significantly Rooted Foreign Bank (SRFB) framework and granted Standard Chartered Bank (Singapore) Limited (SCBSL) to qualify as the 1st SRFB. One of the privileges that StanChart can now exercise is establishing up to 50 places of business (POBs) of which up to 35 may be branches. Under the enhancement of this framework, MAS will also consider granting a full banking license which will enable SRFBs to operate as Singapore-incorporated banks.
  • The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) recently announced a collaboration with National Research Foundation (NRF) and the National University of Singapore (NUS), to establish the Asian Institute of Digital Finance (AIDF) to foster research and innovation in the digital finance and fintech landscape through a Master’s program with scholarship opportunities to pursue at doctoral level.

Sustainable Banking

  • Citibank recently detailed its new five year plan to aid and accelerate its goal to transition to a low-carbon economy. The new strategy – 2025 Sustainable Progress Strategy will include “$250 Billion Environmental Finance Goal to finance and facilitate climate solutions globally”, measure climate risks in its portfolios, financing of projects in renewable energy, clean technology, circular economy, etc. It is noteworthy that Citi achieved its previous 5-year $100 billion strategy announced in 2015 a year ahead of schedule. Asia Pacific Citi is already 100 percent powered by renewable electricity.
The Digital Banker - TDB - Blog

TDB Digest – What’s Cooking in the FinTech and Banking Industry (Issue 4)

Fintech News

  • Varo Money – a US based consumer Fintech was granted the national bank charter and received regulatory nod to open Varo Bank N.A. This charter will allow Varo to provide comprehensive, FDIC-insured banking services to customers and is the  first-of-its-kind approval for consumer fintech in the  United States.

FinTech Funding Continues

  • Remitly – a pioneer in cross-border payments, recently announced an $85 million funding round that pushes its valuation to $1.5 billion. With this round the Fintech has officially become a unicorn. The Series F funding round was led by Prosus’ PayU with existing backers such as DN Capital, Generation Investment Management, Owl Rock Capital, Princeville, Stripes, Threshold Ventures, and Top Tier also investing.
  • Transferwise – pioneering international money transfer service, has recently disclosed that it is now worth USD 5 billion. This new valuation is a 43% increase from May 2019’s valuation and was achieved through secondary share sales worth USD319 million. This share sale was led by existing investors as well as new ones such as D1 Capital Partners and Vulcan Capital.
  • Volante Technologies – a leading provider of cloud based payments and financial messaging solutions has raised USD35 million in growth equity financing from Wavecrest Growth Partners with strategic participation by BNY Mellon, Citi Ventures, PostePay and Visa Inc. The capital raised will be used to drive cloud expansion across multiple market segments and geographies.
  • StashAway – a digital wealth management platform for both retail and accredited investors based in Singapore has recently announced that it raised USD 16 million Series C fundraising round led by Square Peg and early investors such as Alibaba and Eight Roads Ventures and new investor firms such as Burda Principal Investments, Hubert Burda Media participating in this round. This round will drive product development and cater to more countries around the region.

BigTech and Banks Collaborating

  • Google has partnered with a total of 8 banks in the US to offer digital banking services to bank customers in US. With this partnership Google will provide enhanced user-experience and use data to drive financial insights while the banks will provide digital checking accounts which are FDIC insured. This is in line with Google’s foray into the banking where the company is exploring collaborations with banks through Google Pay.


Travel in Peace: How Aman Caters to the Ultra Luxe Traveler

Travel in Peace: How Aman Caters to the Ultra Luxe Traveler

When considering where to take up your next post-pandemic vacation experience, one would do well to consider one of Aman’s superbly appointed and luxuriously spacious resorts around the world. Currently with 32 resorts in 20 countries and expanding to 40 resorts in 22 countries in the near future, Aman is maintaining its sense of exclusivity while adapting its offering to meet the needs of the modern ultra-luxury wayfarer.

We spoke with Aman’s Chief Operating Officer, Roland Fasel. Over his career Roland has had the singular focus of developing the worlds ultra-luxury hotel segment with many of the names synonymous with luxury accommodation. In these unprecedented times, Roland steers Aman into the future.

GPB: How would you describe the current shape of your industry, the consumer demands and how do you think these will change in the future?

Roland Fasel, Chief Operating Officer

Roland Fasel: One of the biggest challenges has been the uncertainty around when restrictions will be lifted and when borders or air travel will return, as every country is different. We expect that the pandemic will continue to reverberate through the industry for some time, but in the meantime,

we are focused on our short, mid and long-term plans. The demand for our hotels is mainly domestic and short haul at the moment but as countries open up this will change. For both domestic and international guests we have seen a significant increase in those driving to our destinations and flying privately such as German guests driving to Aman Venice.

GPB: Luxury travel has seen a surge of entrants and brands constantly looking to innovate, how has the Aman group lead the industry?

Roland Fasel: It is important to go back to Aman’s roots as the pioneer in this ultra-luxury and niche segment of hideaway resorts. In numerous ways, the generosity of space and efforts to slow down time, have always been firmly ingrained in Aman’s DNA, from the architecture and design of standalone pavilions with private pools, to the low room count and subtle service which now makes the brand a blueprint for the future of travel.

GPB: How do you expect the post COVID-19 luxury travel market to evolve over the next 12 months? and when do you anticipate a return to ‘normal’?

Roland Fasel: It’s too early to say when things will return to ‘normal’, however in the short term we have seen an increase in guests wanting to drive or fly privately to our destinations as well as a demand for in-room dining, medical wellness, experiences in nature and privacy. It will be interesting to see if these trends are still present as we approach the end of year and the popular festive period when usually larger groups spend time together. We believe that people may choose to travel less, but seek that one very special trip instead.

We have some really exciting developments in the pipeline, but we always make sure their concept is connected back to Aman’s roots as a brand.

GPB: What new trends are you foreseeing and how are you positioning the Aman group to take advantage of them?

Roland Fasel: During this pandemic, people have realised how important and valuable good health is. Travellers want to stay in places where you can improve your mental and physical wellbeing through retreats such as our Journey to Peace retreat at our Indochina properties. Medical wellness and preventative treatments are another focus we are already receiving enquiries for the Holistic Wellness Centre at Amanpuri which reopened 1 July. We have also launched a series of Immune Support retreats across several of our properties such as Amanbagh, India and Amanemu, Japan. Villas have always been a focus for Aman, over a third of our properties have residences, and in recent weeks we have seen an increase in demand for example at our property Amanzoe, Greece. It’s definitely a key area we continue to focus on, all our future openings have villas or apartments as part of the development We are also seeing an increase in long-stay bookings in our villas – families who are wanting to spend quality time together after being apart. The idea of a self-contained and fully staffed villa is especially appealing at this time.

GPB: With commercial travel being impacted, what do you see the role of private charter in assisting both business and leisure travel?

Roland Fasel: In November last year, we launched the Aman Private Jet as a result of seeing a demand in the number of clients wanting to travel in consummate privacy. It was a natural progression for Aman to offer this capability and take its renowned experience and un-parrelled levels of service to the skies, providing ease of travel between not only our resorts, but non-Aman destinations too. As a result of the crisis, this demand has only increased and we look forward to offering this service to more of our guests for both their business and leisure travel.

GPB: Anything new on the horizon that we should look forward to?

Roland Fasel: We have some really exciting developments in the pipeline, but we always make sure their concept is connected back to Aman’s roots as a brand. For example, Aman New York which will have one of the largest outdoor terraces allowing for extensive al fresco dining and another Aman Bangkok, located next of one of the capital’s largest green spaces.


Aman has reopened a number of its properties globally and is set to continue over the coming weeks. To enquire about preferential rates at an Aman property or for investment opportunities at Aman Residences, please contact us.

The Digital Banker - TDB - Blog

TDB Digest – What’s Cooking in the FinTech and Banking Industry (Issue 3)

Fintech and Banks Collaborating

  • Traxpay and Deutsche Bank: Duetsche Bank last week announced that it the bank invested in a Frankfurt based Fintech – Traxpay, a financing platform offering solutions such as dynamic discounting and supply chain financing. The investment is a strategic one as as Deutsche Bank will now avail the platform’s technology to expand its supply chain finance offering. For Traxpay, this investment could lead to future collaboration with other banks.
  • Synalogik and Natwest Group: Synalogik – a company providing Saas  service through automation of compliance and regulation procedures in line with FCA guidelines, recently announced that Natwest Group was their latest customer to use the SCOUT platform.  The Natwest Group which consist of Natwest Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland, Ulster Bank, etc will now use Scout across all their compliance teams to ensure enhanced security checks, due diligence and better risk assessment.
  • National Bank of Pakistan and Codebase Technologies: National Bank of Pakistan recently upgraded its pool management system to Codebase Technologies’ DigiBancTM PoolSmart. The new PoolSmart ensures the digital transformation through enhance profit distribution, multi-currency management and data driven insights into customer portfolios. 

Sustainability Banking

  • Bank of the West, a BNP Paribas subsidiary has partnered with 1% for the Planet to introduce a customer checking account in aide of climate change. The bank announced that the account is a first of its kind and will have “climate action features such as a carbon tracking tool, biodegradable card, and will donate 1% of account revenues to environmental non-profit partners of 1% for the Planet at no cost to customers.”

Fintech Growth in LATAM

  • Fintech investment has seen exponential growth over the last three years and Latin America has been at the forefront of this. With a large, if not a majority population which is unbanked, the demand for digital transformation has grown leading to innovation and Fintech growth. However the lack of regulations and laws have been a pain point. Nonetheless the region has seen a surge in investments, with Brazil accounting for over 60% of investments in 2019.

COVID-19 Pandemic and The Era of Responsible Banking

COVID-19 Pandemic and The Era of Responsible Banking

An industry that has been able to weather crises such as SARS, Ebola, 9/11, Asian financial meltdown and of course, the 2008 financial crisis, otherwise known as The Great Recession, is nothing less than resilient. Amidst the ongoing uncertainty brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the banking industry is once again facing an enormous challenge, the likes of which are totally unprecedented in scale.

Instantly, the impact on the economy started to reverberate across all regions. According to The Center for Global Development, an international think tank that focuses on international development, “travel restrictions and lockdowns imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19 continue to impact the economic outlook for low- and middle-income countries.”

In Asia and the Pacific, economic growth is expected to decline by 2.7 percent in 2020 (down from last year’s 3.6 percent growth) and is seen as the most significant fall since the near-zero growth rate logged in 2009 during the global financial crisis, according to APEC. In addition, Asia-Pacific will also see a 50% decrease in passenger demand this year compared to last year. As a result, airline passenger revenues is estimated to record a revenue decline of $113bn compared to last year.

DBS, Southeast Asia’s largest bank, reports a 29% drop in first-quarter year-over-year net profits, setting aside $772.5 million “to cover potential losses from the coronavirus pandemic.”

Meanwhile, Latin America may experience a contraction of income between 11% and 22% according to a simulation by the Bank of Spain. Moody’s predicts a 6% contraction for Argentina’s economy for 2020, 5.2% for Brazil and 7% for Mexico.

Brazilian government minister Salim Mattar estimates that “the unemployment rate in [Brazil] may even double due to the impact of the coronavirus crisis on the economy.”

Not spared from economic shocks, Africa’s growth is also estimated to slow to 1.8 percent in the best-case scenario or to contract to -2.6 percent in the worst-case scenario from the 2.9 percent in 2019 and the pre-pandemic 2020 forecast of 3.2 percent, according to The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

Overall, the World Bank warn that “COVID-19 is likely to cause the first increase in global poverty since 1998 when the Asian Financial Crisis hit.”

“Global poverty — the share of the world’s population living on less than $1.90 per day — is projected to increase from 8.2% in 2019 to 8.6% in 2020, or from 632 million people to 665 million people,” World Bank adds.

Overall, the World Bank warns that “COVID-19 is likely to cause the first increase in global poverty since 1998 when the Asian Financial Crisis hit.

The Era of Responsible Banking

Since 2008, in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, banks have made significant steps to take action and create products that are better aligned with the social and environmental values of the clients, not just because regulators have demanded it, but because society expects it. Moreover, it has proved to be beneficial to the bottom line.

Formally, this is now known as Principles for Responsible Banking (PRB). The Principles for Responsible Banking were launched by 130 banks from 49 countries, representing more than USD47 trillion in assets, on 22 and 23 September 2019 in New York City, during the annual United Nations General Assembly.

At the end of March 2020, as the world sees the rapid spread of COVID-19, the PRB group called on its signatories to take action to support society and businesses in this unprecedented crisis. More than 150 banks joined the call and were in fact, doing more than what their governments are asking them to do when it comes to supporting small businesses and unemployed individuals.

The examples of how banks are helping societies during the collapse of an economy is aplenty.

For example, in the US, banks have become the predominant channel for its Paycheck Protection Programme, a $659 billion aid programme for small businesses. US regulators have also eased restriction to allow banks to tap into their capital reserves so they can continue lending.

In Switzerland, regulators and banking institutions worked together to provide loans for businesses who only need to fill out an online form and if approved, the loan could be disbursed to their accounts the next day. Likewise, in South Africa, filling in a form is not even needed as banks were allowed to adopt ‘opt-out’ models making it easier for loans to be extended. And in China, banks worked closely with regulators so loans and extensions could be fast tracked.

In mounting these unprecedented efforts to help societies, as well as prevent further deterioration of economic gains, global central banks are also stepping up to the plate and taking decisive actions.

Elsewhere, in The Netherlands, ABN Amro has extended an automatic six-month deferral on payment of principal and interest for clients with a credit facility of up to 50 million euros. And in Singapore, DBS Bank is allowing credit card holders to roll repayments into a single loan, effectively cutting rates from more than 20% to high single digits.

In mounting these unprecedented efforts to help societies, as well as prevent further deterioration of economic gains, global central banks are also stepping up to the plate and taking decisive actions. Through various measures such as rate cuts, liquidity support and easing of financial policies, the world’s central banks are playing a crucial role in preserving economic stability during this crisis.

Commitment to Move Forward

While the proverbial light the end of the tunnel may not be very clear in sight yet, COVID-19 and its impact already highlight the importance of keeping sustainability and responsibility at the forefront of banking agenda. Banks that have been committed to responsible banking are seeing good progress and are in fact, dealing better with the COVID-19 crisis.

Through the Principles of Responsible Banking, understanding the needs of all stakeholders becomes a paramount concern, and as such, it allows decision makers to understand the potential impact of any decision during a crisis.

However, any principles and proposals around responsible banking may come to naught if these aren’t backed by commitments and tangible targets. The new normal may come sooner than expected, or later than hoped. What’s important is to continue to look out for each other. After all, doing business is all about helping our customers and our people.

The Digital Banker - TDB - Blog

TDB Digest – What’s Cooking in the FinTech and Banking Industry (Issue 2)

Fintech News updates

  • Bond, a US start-up which focuses on creating enterprise platforms which helps banks engage with brand partners, connect with them and scale operation to drive revenue, has recently closed $32M in Series A funding. The round was led by Coatue with new investors Goldman Sachs, Mastercard and B Capital.
  • The UK Government’s independent Fintech Strategic Review has announced that it began the process of reviewing the UK Fintech industry which “is estimated to be worth around £7 billion to the economy and employs around 60,000 people nationwide”. The review led by Ron Kalifa OBE, former CEO of Worldpay will help establish the need for resources, priority areas to ensure the success of the Fintech industry. 


  • Project Ubin – a collaborative project between Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), R3, a DLT company and 9 financial institutions (DBS, SGX, HSBC, UOB, etc) was launched in 2016, to develop and test a payment system prototype across various financial institutions using Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT). On 13th July 2020, MAS announced the conclusion of the final phase of project stating that payments network will provide interfaces for other blockchain networks to connect and integrate seamlessly, conditional payments and escrow for trade, as well as payment commitments for trade finance. MAS also announced the project is on track for commercial use.

Fintech investment in Singapore

  • In line with MAS’s drive to make Singapore the “ Fintech Hub” of ASEAN while promoting innovation and financial inclusion, investments in the Singapore Fintech industry reached a total of S$650 million as of H1 2020, with a record 19% increase in equity funding amounting to S$462 million as compared with last year’s same period.

BREAK-UP OF H1 2020 INVESTMENTS (in Millions S$)

 SME banking service223
Others (Payment and Lending)107
Retail banking providers67
Technology providers65

The Private Wealth Landscape in Mauritius and Bank One’s Approach to Wealth Management

The Private Wealth Landscape in Mauritius and Bank One’s Approach to Wealth Management

Bank One’s Guillaume Passebecq, Head of Private Banking & Wealth Management shares insights on Bank One’s approach in wealth management, the private wealth landscape in Mauritius and the crucial role digital channels play in private banking strategy. Below are the excerpts of our interview.

Can you tell us about the efficacy of Bank One’s approach in wealth management?

Guillaume Passebecq, Head of Private Banking & Wealth Management

Guillaume Passebecq: Bank One is a leading Mauritian bank with a regional footprint. Its two shareholders, Mauritian conglomerate CIEL Limited and Kenya-based I&M Holdings, have an extended presence on the African continent and banking operations in Madagascar, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda. Our shareholders’ strong footing in Africa grants us easy access to the securities markets in Kenya and Rwanda, positioning us as a favourable bridge to the booming East African market.

With our on-the-ground presence in Africa, a robust custodian network that extends over 50 countries, and with Euroclear as our main depository, all our clients; individuals, external asset managers and financial institutions; have direct access to the deep insights of our local and international experts.

We operate on a total Open Architecture model that offers best-of-breed products from multiple global providers. The collaborative nature of this model allows us to unlock a world of opportunities and deliver a diversified range of local and international solutions, including bonds, equities, ETFs, funds, and structured products. Our primary focus is the protection and growth of our clients’ wealth. Through our Open Architecture model, our clients can choose one or more independent portfolio managers, who will leverage their in-depth knowledge to deliver the desired investment objective.

Moreover, as their custodian bank, we are responsible for the safety of our clients’ securities and assets, which are recorded off-balance sheet. Our depositary, Euroclear – rated AA+ by Fitch Ratings and AA by Standard & Poor’s – is a proven and resilient provider of securities settlements.

At Bank One, we help our clients navigate the complex world of financial services by bringing forth different investment solutions. We offer both Execution Services which allows them to trade directly on all international markets by accessing our extensive network of trading specialists and Discretionary Portfolio Management (DPM) where they are able to choose an expert to oversee their financial assets.

How has the private wealth landscape in Mauritius changed over the last 5 years and what trends are emerging that may not be so apparent?

Guillaume Passebecq: The private wealth industry continues to experience significant challenges and transformation. Over the last 5 years, the industry in Mauritius has gained more exposure to international standards both in terms of pure banking products and services as well as more sophisticated investment solutions. The fact that Mauritius historically attracted and continues to attract foreign investors, is a key element of our business model. We believe that the foreign investors look for a more holistic advisory solution that encompasses their needs across a wide range of financial products and services.

Alignment with international laws and standards has also contributed to make the Mauritian Financial System more transparent and robust. Recent EU decisions are forcing Mauritius to reinvent itself as the industry’s development lies even more on internationalisation and it can adapt to those standards.

Last but not least, the local private wealth landscape has also experienced significant digitalisation efforts in recent years, with the introduction of real-time digital access and a strong custody services offer. HNW customers in particular are looking for a more hybrid approach. They want the best of both worlds as they are not ready to forego the human touch but they are also looking for a bank that can provide them with a complete digital banking experience where advisory can be provided via email or over the phone.

Over the last 5 years, the industry in Mauritius has gained more exposure to international standards both in terms of pure banking products and services as well as more sophisticated investment solutions.

How crucial of a part do digital channels and ecosystems play in Bank ONE’s strategy? What new products and/or services are your customers requesting as a result of COVID-19?

Guillaume Passebecq: From a pure banking perspective, customer behaviour and expectations are constantly evolving. They are expecting a seamless digital banking experience using mobile applications as well as a digitally-driven communication model from their financial service providers. Traditional brick and mortar are, in turn, being converted into greener and more efficient workspaces allowing for a more pleasant interaction with the customer.

Bank One has fully embraced this wave and invested massively in digital channels, as the old paradigm is no longer sufficient to maintain a competitive edge in the market. We have revisited our business strategy and operational model to invest in digital channels such as a revamped Internet Banking platform, a new Mobile Banking application, a full-fledged Custody platform and an E-advisory platform. Our strategy is focused on customer satisfaction and it is in our DNA to evolve with global market changes.

Can you see a silver lining in the midst of the Covid-19 cloud, in terms of handling customer expectations?

Guillaume Passebecq: In every crisis, clients expect more proximity from their banks and a close follow-up of their investments. This period of financial stress has brought forward the resilience of Bank One’s Open Architecture model, as multi-management investment solution can be an efficient way of reducing performance volatility.

The global economy has been experiencing dramatic changes since the fourth quarter of last year. Apart from the bitter effects of the COVID-19 global pandemic, we also witnessed negative oil prices for the first time ever. Increased ESG-related transformations, such as climate change, are starting to affect peoples’ daily habits.

We believe that the current crisis is changing the mind-set of some investors with greater emphasis on green investment given a fresh focus that looks further into the future. COVID-19 is further accelerating ESG investments, which have seen a steady increase of inflows and better-than-average returns since the beginning of the pandemic. I believe the rationale behind is that the COVID-19 crisis has put the spotlight on vulnerabilities and our dependence on the natural environment.

This crisis has also placed greater emphasis on the security of clients’ assets amidst greater risk and volatility. At Bank One, our primary focus is the protection and growth of client’s wealth and we make sure that their investments are kept off balance sheet with a trusted depository like Euroclear acting as the provider for securities settlements.

Bank One has fully embraced this wave and invested massively in digital channels, as the old paradigm is no longer sufficient to maintain a competitive edge in the market.

As a winner of Best Product Innovation at the Global Private Banking Innovation Awards 2020, what is on your immediate digital innovation wish list for Bank One?

Guillaume Passebecq: We are at a very special moment in history right now and uncertainty around the depth and duration of the COVID-19 pandemic has forced banks to review their current processes and re-invent themselves. More than ever, we have seen that digital transformation is the key to enduring such crisis. Lockdown does not necessarily mean shut down. At Bank One, we have been able to navigate through this crisis and ensure normal banking operations are carried out thanks to the digitalisation of our internal processes.

Bank One has customer satisfaction as one of its core tenets. We believe that we can position ourselves to capitalise on the emergence digital services trend whilst adopting a customer-centric approach to stay true to our values. Digital transformation at Bank One is not a project, it is an ongoing process. It is in our DNA to continuously reassess our processes and platforms in order to meet changing customer needs and market dynamics.


>> To read more about this story and other exclusive features about the global private banking landscape, download the latest issue of Global Private Banker Magazine HERE.

The Digital Banker - TDB - Blog

TDB Digest – What’s Cooking in the FinTech and Banking Industry (Issue 1)

Fintech Update

  • TransferWise, the British unicorn founded in 2011, has recently been granted multiple new licenses by the Financial Conduct Authority. These licenses will allow the company to deal in retail investments. This is welcomed news after the unicorn revealed that it had £ 2bn in customer deposits worldwide. Learn more about TransferWise at Transferwise
  • Entirely providing services on a digital app and online, UK’s Monument is offering  savings and property investment lending products to cater to the country’s affluent individuals having a net-worth between £ 250,000 to £ 5 million. The bank now finds itself in the last stages of the regulatory approval process of obtaining a digital bank license. Learn more about Monument at Monument

Funding in the midst of Covid-19? 

  • Tonik – a digital-only neo-bank in Philippines raised $21 million in Series A equity funding round. Both Sequoia India and Point72 Ventures invested in this round. Tonik provides services such as loans, deposits, payments and card products and was recently granted its own bank license by the Philippines banking regulator. In light of Covid-19, Greg Krasnov, Founder & CEO of Tonik, noted that “in the Philippines, where over 70% of the population remains unbanked, we are observing a rapid jump in consumer demand for digital banking and digital transfers since the start of the year”. Tonikbank
  • Penta – a digital platform providing business banking services to small and medium sized companies, in addition to its first Series B funding of about $18.5 million, raised an additional $4 million in the first week of July 2020, thereby finalizing its Series B funding. The investors in the latest round are S7V and Presight Capital, as well as two family offices. In May 2020, Penta expanded its customer base to include sole self-employed people as well. Penta

Collaboration between banks and FinTechs

  • Saxo Bank, a challenger bank in Denmark has signed an agreement with 5 Danish banks enabling 500,000 customers of the 5 banks to use Saxo bank’s user-friendly trading and investment solutions. This particular partnership will help Danish banks reduce costs and streamline the otherwise complex process while providing simple state-of-the-art investment solutions. Saxo bank
  • A global open banking platform, Railsbank is collaborating with Singapore-based neo-bank Aspire  to expand its services for small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Aspire is currently focusing in south-east Asia region and with the help of Railsbank Singapore Dollar Account, Aspire can provide seamless digital banking services across the region using Railsbank’s API services. Learn more about the start-ups at Railsbank and Aspire 

Sustainable Finance

  • DBS Bank in Singapore recently laid out a first-of-its-kind framework called “Sustainable and Transition Finance Framework and Taxonomy” which will guide the bank’s corporate clients who believe in furthering their goal to achieve sustainable economic activities. A section of the framework “outlines the way DBS manages transactions that are classified as “Green”, “Transition” and/or contributing to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs)” DBS
  • Two of the largest banks in Singapore – DBS Bank and OCBC Bank, have joined forces and lent a sustainability loan of S$ 700 million to a  joint venture  Keppel Infrastructure Trust and Keppel Energy Pte. Ltd. This loan is the first sustainability linked loan in Singapore’s energy sector and will be used to reduce carbon footprint of the company’s operations. DBS


What Attracts Wealthy Entrepreneurs to Standard Chartered Private Bank

What Attracts Wealthy Entrepreneurs to Standard Chartered Private Bank

Standard Chartered Bank’s Ali Hammad, Market Head – Private Banking at Standard Chartered MENA shares insights on attracting wealthy families in the Middle East, the role of nascent technology in banking and how private wealth is dealing with the impact of COVID-19. Below are the excerpts of our interview.

What differentiates your business in the Middle East and what attracts wealthy entrepreneurs and families to Standard Chartered Private bank?

Ali Hammad: Standard Chartered has a unique position in the Middle East. We are an international bank with a unique global footprint that continues to provide clients with access to some of the biggest growth markets around the world and expertise to make the most of every opportunity.  Relationships with clients are at the heart of everything the Bank does, and its full spectrum of banking services offers clients the opportunity to grow and protect both their business and personal wealth, helping to build an enduring legacy for the future. This, importantly, is coupled with our deep-rooted history in the region, local insight, and on-ground capabilities. Additionally, despite our long-standing history, we remain innovative and are continually enhancing our services based on the current market and evolving needs of our client.

Our investment philosophy stems from the Bank’s commitment to empowering its clients to make unbiased investment decisions and make the most of their wealth, with a transparent process to curate and debate diverse insights for more objective advice. This is combined with open source access to solutions that meet their goals.

In 2019, the Bank’s growth was fuelled by strong income and Net New Money.  It was the third consecutive year of top-line growth with the business generating income of $577m, which was up 12% YoY.  It was also the third consecutive year that the business delivered positive inflows with Net New Money at $2.6bn.

Over the past year, the Private Bank has also continued to drive performance by incorporating environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations into investment decisions, the foundation of sustainable investing.  It is also one of the key pillars on which our sustainability aspirations are built to truly be a force for good.

As such, we’re recognised as an industry leader in wealth management across our key markets, specifically the MENA region.

How important of a role has nascent technology such as Machine Learning, AI and Big Data played in your firm?

Ali Hammad: From retail and private banking, to digital only banks, Standard Chartered has placed the integration of progressive and disruptive technologies at the fore of its robust offering. On the ground, financial institutions are feeling the heat of a sluggish economy. In particular, private banking institutions are heavily impacted.

Our use of state-of-the-art technologies stems across the entirety of our operations. For instance, across eight markets on the African continent, client onboarding is fully digitised and takes less than 15 minutes. A client can open a new account entirely through our award-winning SC Private Banking app anytime, anywhere – from the comfort of their own home or while on the road, thanks to the accessibility and ease of our solution.  It provides a secure means for clients to communicate with their Private Banker, access investment publications, view all registered activity and manage personal details and preferences online.  As of June 2020, the Bank has recorded around a 40% increase in client usage over the past six months.

We are continually innovating our products and services to ensure we’re able to remain ahead of the curve. For example, the Bank’s proprietary open banking platform, aXess, serves as one of our many uses of progressive technologies, wherein the platform drives connectivity and partnerships between external developers, corporates and fintechs. The platform enables participants to co-create better client products and services through the sharing of APIs and libraries.

The Private Bank has also enhanced its trading capabilities for clients with a leading FX derivatives platform, called FXD Connect.  It delivers the best solutions at competitive market prices while cutting response times by more than 90% to less than a minute.  Standard Chartered Private bank is one of the first banks to launch the FXD Connect platform, positioning the Bank as a leading FX house in the industry.

Similarly, we were among the first international banks in the UAE to launch the major wallet solutions, including Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Google Pay, giving customers the flexibility to complete mobile transactions faster, and through the wallet partner of their choice.

We will continue to invest in expanding these functionalities to evolve with our customers’ changing lifestyles and needs. These introductions, of course, could not have been plausible without the progressive abilities of tools such as AI, Big Data and Machine Learning.

Over the past year, Standard Chartered Private Bank has continued to drive performance by incorporating environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations into investment decisions, the foundation of sustainable investing.

What is your outlook on the impact of COVID-19 on the private wealth landscape over the next 12-24 months, and what critical measures has SC Private Bank taken to navigate these waters?

Ali Hammad: The impact of COVID-19 on the realm of private wealth is sizable, specifically when accounting for the extreme volatility felt across various markets and the subsequent urge to ensure sufficient liquidity during these unprecedented times. As such, the next 12-24 months will be critical as we begin to emerge from the immediate crisis and clients begin to regain their financial health. However, it would be premature to make any definite predictions so early on.

Concerning our support efforts, the Bank has taken extraordinary measures to mitigate the health, financial, societal, and economic implications of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bank’s support is geared towards ensuring the wellbeing and stability of our clients, our employees, and the community as a whole.

Understandably, many clients are concerned about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on their wealth, particularly with the volatility we have seen across financial markets globally during this period.  It has been a worrying time for most and, for us, being available and keeping in regular contact with clients has been critical.  The strength of our relationships and the trust built with our clients have come into their own.  We’ve been able to minimise any disruption to our client service and continue to provide expert advice and reassurance and keep clients up-to-date as the crisis evolves.

Across the wider AME region, including in the UAE, we have enacted a three-month payment holiday on existing personal loans, car loans and mortgages, with zero fees. Also, all clients can choose to pay only the interest component of their loan for a period of three months. Concerning credit card purchases, we have provided our clients the ability to receive a 50 percent reduction on cash advance fees and a refund on any foreign currency transaction fees on cancelled travel bookings. The Bank has also afforded clients the ability to convert selected fees and purchases, including hospital, school, utility, and grocery fees, into equal monthly instalments at 0 percent interest and no processing fees.

What are some of the digital capabilities your firm is investing in, as a result of client demand?

Ali Hammad: The Bank has kept its finger on the pulse of the emerging technologies sector. We are continually exploring opportunities for further integrating the latest digital capabilities to our portfolio of products and services. Our digital-only banks in Africa are a great example of this, as they were a direct-result of our clients’ demand for convenient and accessible financial services in the markets.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a bank’s ability to provide its clients with uninterrupted offerings via digital mediums was of the utmost importance. Fortunately, Standard Chartered was an early champion of digital banking and was well-positioned to provide clients with its full suite of services through its many technological offerings. A prime example of this is our real-time onboarding service, a first-of-its-kind in the UAE, wherein customers of Standard Chartered are able to sign up for an account in as little as 10 minutes through an entirely automated process.

However, looking ahead of the current crisis, digital adoption will certainly be a popular undertaking across the regional banking landscape, specifically surrounding contactless payments and mobile banking.

The young generation of today is exposed to technology in their lives more so than ever.  This brings about a certain level of expectation. They anticipate leading-edge technology solutions to manage and access their finances ‘on the go’.  It’s fairly usual for say, High Net Worth Individuals, to have multiple investment relationships across several platforms and advisors, and to require consolidation of information at the touch of a button.  Technology has made access to information much easier. Therefore, the requirement for sophisticated advice will continue to grow to help attract the next generation.

Although the Bank is a substantial player in the digital banking field, we look to further invest in emerging technologies, such as AI and Big Data, to ensure our offerings conform to the utmost standard.

Not only that but additionally being at the forefront of the latest technology helps to attract up-coming young professionals. These employees are looking for employers that are more innovative in nature, which provides a deeper sense of purpose and offers flexibility.

Which private products and services is your organisation focusing on innovating as a priority over the next year?

Ali Hammad: Across our various private services, including wealth solutions, legacy planning, and sustainable investments, we look to integrate the latest technologies, digitise our offerings, and provide our clients with flexibility that doesn’t compromise on efficiency.

However, as we slowly emerge from the current crisis, we are prioritising existing relationships with our private clients and ensuring that they are serviced and supported to the utmost standard. As I’ve previously mentioned, the Bank continues to heavily invest in the latest technologies, yet we’re also equally as invested in retaining the ‘human’ element of banking. Integrating top-of-the-line digital capabilities with elite customer service serves as the basis of our client-driven philosophy, ensuring that our clients are catered to the highest degree.

Customer satisfaction remains key to the success of our business and we are committed to seeing our clients through these turbulent times, as well as safeguard their wealth and investments. For our entrepreneurial clients, we aim to place our focus on their financial and operational health, as the current challenges continue to implicate their businesses.

The Bank’s drive to remain innovative will continue onwards, however, the current climate calls for increased attention on our clients and their endeavours.


>> To read more about this story and other exclusive features about the global private banking landscape, download the latest issue of Global Private Banker Magazine HERE.