Tat Lee, Chief Executive at WeLab Bank

WeLab Bank: Reinventing Customer Experience for the New Decade

The proliferation of digital banks around the world led to Hong Kong Monetary Authority being one of the first regulators in Asia to invite applications and approve the launch of eight virtual banks in Hong Kong. Of the eight applications approved to operate as virtual banks, WeLab Bank –a wholly owned subsidiary of WeLab, positioned as a home grown virtual bank continues to build on an existing eight year relationship with the people of Hong Kong. The bank’s aim is to introduce innovative financial solutions to help the young target market find joy along their financial journey by helping them Manage (M), Save (S), and Grow (G) their money. The Digital Banker interviewed Tat Lee, Chief Executive at WeLab Bank, to understand the lay of the land, discuss highlights and mandates at the virtual bank and what does the future hold for the banking industry as a whole.

The Digital Banker (TDB): Having launched in the midst of a pandemic, can you please recount for us some of the highlights of WeLab Bank in 2020?

Tat Lee: I can vividly recall the day – July 30, 2020, in the midst of third wave of the global health crisis in Hong Kong, we launched WeLab Bank.  People here largely stayed indoors, due to heavy restrictions on social gathering.  Several traditional banks were forced to close down branches or shorten operating hours. In hindsight, 2020 accelerated digital banking adoption – allowing WeLab Bank to step in and fulfil everyday banking needs. A testament of how the people of Hong Kong embraced our bank is that we received 10,000 new account opening applications in the first 10 days!

The highlight for us at WeLab Bank was the launch of GoSave – an innovative term deposit product with a unique social element. Drawing on a symbolic icon, the Hong Kong mini-bus, the GoSave term deposit product harnesses the power of community to provide higher than market 3-month tenor interest rates, with minimum deposit being as low as HKD 10. To kickstart the GoSave mini-bus (time deposit vehicle), 80 depositors must be onboard. Since launch, over 1300 Go-Save term deposit minibus have begun, with half of the customers participating in more than one GoSave mini-bus.

TDB: As a new emerging player in the banking segment, what are some of the challenges and opportunities for WeLab Bank in 2021?

Tat Lee: With a total of eight new virtual banks in the market, coupled with the fact that the concept of ‘virtual bank’ isn’t always clear, the stakes are very high. One of the challenges WeLab Bank as well as other virtual banks have  to encounter is to educate the market on the key difference between virtual banks and traditional banks.

To gain market awareness, all virtual banks  are actively offering perks for opening accounts  by offering cash rewards, bonus points, to merchant discounts in order to attract early adopters.   In 2021, we anticipate all virtual banks to be more mindful of costs, hence curtailing their spending.

At WeLab Bank we aim to continue building brand trust in our first full year of running in 2021. A pertinent message for our current and potential customers is that, like any other traditional bank, we are regulated by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and depositors are protected under the Deposit Protection Scheme.  As much as we can,  WeLab Bank distinguishes itself from the competition by innovating its product stack.

TDB: How is WeLab Bank differentiating customer experience and enhancing its products and services in 2021, given the fact that HKMA has approved 7 other virtual bank licenses and that other retail banks are also strengthening their digital initiatives.

Tat Lee: While I cannot comment on other virtual banks, at WeLab Bank we aim to help the next generations Manage, Save and Grow their money.  Based on our research, there are three million people in Hong Kong who are “underadvised” on how best to bank based on their personal needs.

These customers are overlooked majority of the time, with banks maintaining “little to no” relationship with them primarily due to balance thresholds.  On the other hand, WeLab Bank provides essential banking services like deposits, card, and loan products that help our customers manage and save.

As we speak, I can tell you that, we are set to increase diversity in our product range to better serve our customers, and take them on a holistic banking journey while also empowering them to take control of their finances. At WeLab Bank, we believe it is vital for the ‘underadvised’ to grow their money. Hence, this is why a range of wealth management products is part of our roadmap.

TDB: What are the ways in which WeLab Bank harnesses technology to create and foster greater levels of personalization for its customers?

Tat Lee: We combine human needs and digital solutions to address a customer’s financial journey pain points. In our team of experienced professionals from both the financial services and technology industries – we believe we have a good understanding of  our customers’ needs. This helps us prepare ahead of time, deploy the required technology and always be ready with insights to improve one’s current spending, savings, and investments, enabling one to accomplish financial goals.

Speaking of personalisation of financial services for customers, in March 2021, we formed a strategic partnership with Allianz Global Investors to introduce digital wealth management solutions for our customers. The first phase of this partnership will include the development of wealthtech advisory solutions to empower our next-gen to invest better.

TDB:  According to The Digital Banker, emerging players such as WeLab Bank are re-shaping some of the mandates related to retail banking. Could you talk to us about some of the mandates that you and your team are trying to achieve/re-shape in the short term and long term?

Tat Lee: I believe, our mandates come from the next-gen banking customers. Specifically, our customers need help and advice on how best to manage their finances. We also understand that, the next generation is not particularly looking for a bank per se, they are looking for an advisor to keep them abreast of the various products and services available, to better manage their finances.

Hence, we took our customer’s mandates for us and applied Fintech-like solutions to bring about a vision of what banking for the next generation can look like.

TDB:  Based on your experience in the banking industry, talk to us about what the future of banking industry looks like? What are the keys trends for the next 5 years?

Tat Lee: I do not have a crystal ball, but I would say that we have already begun to see the emerging trends. Some of them according to me are:

  • Adoption of technology not only by the younger generation, also among the older generation.
  • The power of social engagement, will continue to forge its mark in the banking industry like never before. Peer advice and affirmation on best banking products will play a key role in influencing product adoption.
  • The agility and robustness with which challenger banks introduce new products will determine dominance in market share. Also, the ability to cement relationships with smart relevant advice will significantly affect market share. A phase of consolidation will also occur in the near future.
  • The most interesting to me will be the overhaul of the talent pool by traditional banks in the next five years. Core skill competencies that banks once looked for in new young recruits could no longer be relevant.  Skills like rote learning, routine process adherence, relationship management prowess in servicing high net worth customers may well be replaced by the competency to think out-of-the-box and advise on the basics of manage, save and grow the next-gen money.

To wrap up this interview, I believe, it will be  the willingness and foresight of the upper echelons of our industry, to adopt new ways of banking and performance management, and determine  which banks will win hearts, trust and in the end a chance to build a fruitful relationship with the next generation.

The Potential of a Decentralised Financial Ecosystem in Asia Pacific 2

The Potential of a Decentralised Financial Ecosystem in Asia Pacific

As digital assets continue to intrigue stakeholders and consumers alike, questions surrounding its entire ecosystem – infrastructure, governance, security and use, continue to be vague. Primarily speaking of the ecosystem for digital assets, several strides have been made by services providers and regulators alike, to aid the growth of digital asset and its adoption. With that said, the deployment of an infrastructure for digital assets in emerging countries are still subject to strict regulatory norms. To understand how Asia Pacific can leverage off a decentralised financial ecosystem, we reached out to Michael Shaulov, CEO and Co-Founder of Fireblocks – digital asset infrastructure company.

The Digital Banker (TDB): How can a decentralised financial ecosystem transform some of the legacy systems and practices across Asia Pacific?

Michael Shaulov, CEO and Co-Founder of Fireblocks

Michael Shaulov: Decentralized finance is the catalyst for financial institutions to transition from legacy systems to blockchain-based systems. If you look at spaces such as cross-border payments, we are already seeing blockchain start to disrupt traditional financial systems. We have seen the implementation and commercialization of Project Ubin, out of Singapore, that looked to disrupt payment activity by tokenizing the Singapore Dollar (CBDC) and then linking up their domestic payments network with that of other jurisdictions (Bank of Canada) to enable a cross-border payment transaction utilizing CBDC stablecoins on both legs. This type of process re-imagination that is being led by central banks in the Asia Pacific has real implications on reducing the friction we currently experience today in terms of cross-border payments.

Given the enthusiasm associated with projects like Diem, and the engagement of PayPal with blockchain, disruption in the payments space is a key area to watch as we move further into 2021.

TDB: How can Fireblocks help its existing/potential APAC banking customers meet the demands of custody, tokenization, asset management, trading, lending and payment solutions across public and private blockchain networks?

Michael Shaulov: Due to reliance on legacy security technologies and sub-custody solutions, banks and financial institutions (FIs) are unable to meet increasing demand for digital asset services from customers and investors. Fireblocks enables banks and FIs to be at the forefront of this transformation with the most scaled and proven digital asset infrastructure. We help FIs commercialize their digital asset custody business with a suite of products and services across trading, lending, and payments. FIs can also rapidly deploy tokenized fiat, stablecoins, securities, and commodities across public and private blockchains.

TDB: Considering APAC, several new business models are competing with incumbent banks, how is well-positioned is Fireblocks to support the new business models as well as the booming digital bank industry in APAC?

Michael Shaulov: The flexibility of the Fireblocks platform means it can be easily customized to suit the needs of new business models like fintechs and neobanks. We enable these businesses to build a digital asset custody operation that fits their customers’ needs. Given our experience to date, we have seen the core requirements of these customer segments have significant overlap. First, a technology solution that services both these segments must provide the most robust security around protecting the private key and digital asset wallets holding their customer assets. Second, the solution must enable the type of connectivity that allows for seamless engagement with other market participants and eases the current hurdles to effective counterparty settlement. Finally, the technology solution must have infrastructure that allows a simple integration into legacy systems (e.g., API availability, O/EMS support, security/ governance tools).

With these components in place, our platform allows institutions to build product offerings on top of Fireblocks. For new digital banks and fintechs this may be ease of use and simplicity of platform engagement. For traditional FIs this may be the potential range of financial products they can offer on day 1 as a basis of the size and scale of the existing business offerings.

TDB: What are some of the regulatory best practices with regard to digital assets that have emerged in the last few years? How is Fireblocks aiding its widespread adoption?

Michael Shaulov: We do not view regulation as inherently good or bad – but, in our experience, it is almost always better when the local regulator is open to hearing the perspectives of market participants.  We are seeing a lot more interest from regulators on digital asset market issues, and Singapore is actually a great example of this.  Here, Fireblocks had the opportunity to engage with the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s (MAS) on multiple fronts, including via a public open comment process on recent payments legislation as well as direct discussions.

With more such engagements and opportunities, Fireblocks can make regulators aware of why customers choose Fireblocks’ software, hopefully leading the way for widespread adoption.

TDB: Looking at the next 5 years, what are some changes with regard to adoption and regulation of digital assets in the financial services industry that you hope to see?

Michael Shaulov: We think there are at least two very interesting areas of regulation where a thoughtful approach over the next few years can really drive broader digital asset adoption. The first is the utilization of Multiparty Computation (MPC) as a basis for secure digital asset custody. While MPC is already being adopted in the digital asset space, regulators are only now taking note of the comparative advantages of this technology vis-a-vis older, less secure concepts like multisig and cold storage. This would be a game-changer as the concept of what “secure digital asset infrastructure” should look like and we hope the same is ultimately reflected in law and regulation.

The second area that we see coming under greater scrutiny is the idea that being a “qualified custodian”  is a sound basis for determining which market participants are fit to secure digital assets. Prior to the advent of digital assets, storage of physical assets required significant infrastructure, like a cash or securities vault.  While it may have made sense early in the 20th century, technology providers like us have the ability to develop leading digital asset security solutions that would enable any financial institution to offer secure infrastructure that is on par with, or more secure than solutions that are offered by market participants who meet the technical definition of “qualified custodian.”

As regulators begin to understand how these applications can effectively be leveraged and the benefits of enabling businesses to innovate by adopting self-custodial technology, we think there is a real opportunity for a close re-examination of legacy financial regulations like customer fund custody requirements.

TDB: Talk to us about Fireblocks’ plans in Asia.

Michael Shaulov: We have been working closely with financial institutions in regions like Singapore and Hong Kong, enabling these early adopters with next-generation technology to secure their customer and investor funds. We’ve also seen increased demand from Thailand and South Korea where regulations are becoming more defined for the digital asset space.

We’re currently supporting over 40 customers based in APAC, including some of the biggest hedge funds and banks, by allowing them to securely build and manage their digital asset operations. We’ve selected Singapore as our HQ in APAC, with additional offices in Hong Kong. Today, we have eight employees and we’re looking to double that across multiple functions like Customer Success, Sales, Marketing, and Business Solutions, by the end of Q2.

Was the GameStop and AMC fiasco a beckoning of a new age for financial market infrastructure

STACS: Was the GameStop and AMC fiasco a beckoning of a new age for financial market infrastructure?

Financial Market Infrastructures have time and again impacted all parties involved. In such unprecedented times and in the midst of disruptive transformation currently shaping the entire financial service industry, financial market infrastructure will not stay immune for much longer. In light of the GameStop and AMC fiasco, legacy infrastructure was shoved into the limelight once again. To understand the impact of such infrastructures and also discuss alternatives, we interviewed Benjamin Soh, Co-founder & Managing Director of STACS.

The last few weeks have catapulted GameStop and AMC into the spotlight. It also shed light on the legacy infrastructure and systems that financial markets operate in. What according to you is the most significant take-away from this event?

Benjamin Soh, Co-founder & Managing Director of STACS

Benjamin Soh, Co-founder & Managing Director of STACS

Benjamin Soh: The latest retail trader outrage on the back of the GameStop and Robinhood fiasco shows that now is the perfect moment to champion technology-driven alternatives. The reality we are living with is that trade settlement infrastructure in 2021 still requires financial institutions to post billions of dollars each in capital requirements, while settlement times can take up to multiple days and involve multiple parties. The result is an inefficient, costly, and cumbersome hidden back-end to capital markets that the popular retail broker was on the sharp end of two weeks ago. Further, as many inside the industry are already aware the technology to solve this problem for clearing houses, regulators, and financial institutions (banks, brokers, and exchanges) is already here.

Speaking of legacy systems, what are some of the current alternatives that financial markets can adopt to address these problems?

Benjamin Soh: Blockchain or distributed ledger technology (DLT) shows the most promise in delivering instant clearing times and dramatically reducing capital requirements as well as parties involved. Let me share more with you on exactly how it works, and some of the implementations we have done with institutional partners, below…

Could you please elaborate on how STACS fits into this picture? What are some of the problems that STACS could address with regard to financial markets?

Benjamin Soh: Unfortunately, the financial markets have operated in the same way for the last 50 years. Since the 1970s, the capital markets have been fragmented, where institutions operate on different systems and ledgers and go through a linearly dependent process where settlement takes between 2 to 14 days depending on the asset class. This leads to US$800 bn of capital being locked up every single day in the clearing system. With multiple layers of processing, US$300 billion is being spent every year on transaction costs, and this model isn’t even effective. Further, delay in settlements leads to fines being paid in millions of dollars. As we saw in the Robinhood/Gamestop, such failures can potentially affect every participant.

This is where we really come in…STACS works by offering multiple options of connectivity for financial institutions via our front-end applications built specifically for finance use cases (trade lifecycle management of bonds, structured products and derivatives), API integration between existing platforms (i.e. Aladdin, Murex, Omgeo), and the STACS Settlity infrastructure as well as node-to-node integration. Our proprietary platforms mirror financial processes on the blockchain (distributed ledger) so that things like trade settlements and clearing are captured in a decentralised environment.

Could you take us through of any case studies that STACS has developed in recent times?

Benjamin Soh: We’re really excited to have had the opportunity to work with some great institutional partners in the past few months. In December, we completed a blockchain proof-of-concept with Malaysia’s national stock exchange, Bursa Malaysia, to facilitate the growth of the bond marketplace at the Labuan Financial Exchange. Together with CCB Labuan, CIMB and Maybank, we simulated several bond issuances which were all issued and managed on the STACS Blockchain. Using our Trident Blockchain-based platform developed, bond templates were mirrored onto smart contracts for rapid deployment, while operational workflows were streamlined to increase efficiency and flexibility in settlement cycles. The creation of a blockchain powered infrastructure will provide a single source of information that is kept in a shared distributed database between Bursa Malaysia and participating banks. Further, this provides a registry of ownership and reducing counterparty risks and reconciliation costs.

In January, we partnered with Deutsche Bank to jointly explore a project related to the technological and practical feasibility of digital assets interoperability, liquidity, cross-border connectivity, and smart contract templates, including the support of sustainability-themed digital bonds.

Earlier this month (February) we partnered with Eastspring Investments and BNP Paribas on a successful implementation of a first-in-market blockchain-driven solution to enhance trade lifecycle management capabilities for exchange traded derivatives (ETDs). The trading fee calculation platform, named Mercury, addresses current inefficiencies in the trade lifecycle management of ETDs. ETD contracts are complex and require multiple inputs to calculate broker fees, which can lead to trade breaks and many hours of investigation and reconciliation work. Within the first month of the implementation, 84 percent reduction in trade breaks was observed and a significant four-hour per day reduction in non-value-added reconciliation work, with reduced risk of errors in client reporting was also noted.

Finally, we are proud to become a portfolio company of PwC Singapore’s Venture Hub programme. The partnership will bring about synergies between our two firms, while helping to elevate trust placed in distributed ledger technology by the financial services industry and driving adoption.

Finally, as technology and digital transformation shapes other segments of FSI, what are the key areas ripe for disruption in the financial markets?

Benjamin Soh: Apart from fixing this issue of instant trade settlements, we see a really big opportunity in the area of ESG and Green Fintech. We are working towards building efficient techniques of launching of green bonds and green loans to mobilise capital, improving impact monitoring for transparency, and instilling stronger investor confidence in general.

To take this initiative further, we launched GreenSTACS – a platform that is developed on our blockchain core and allows physical Green financing use cases to now be integrated seamlessly to the financial institutions and their infrastructure. For example, Green Bonds and Green Loans can now be digitally issued in a more flexible, cost-effective and rapid manner, while the management and disbursement of proceeds can be enforced more effectively via the use of smart contracts.

LexisNexis How risk management providers are set to play a significant role in combating Financial Crime

LexisNexis Risk Solutions: How risk management providers are set to play a significant role in combating Financial Crime?

With the evolution of technology, the constant assessment of risk factors have become integral to every organisation. Strictly speaking of the ever expanding FSI landscape, the need to understand, predict and mitigate risks has significantly grown in the midst of the pandemic. As the pandemic forced most businesses to operate in a new fashion, it also exposed the whole industry to unethical  activity and disruption. To better understand how to manage risk effectively and become cognizant of the role risk management solutions can play in the FSI landscape, we interviewed Douglas Wolfson, Director of Financial Crime Compliance at LexisNexis Risk Solutions.

With significant advances in technology, please talk to us about some of the emerging risks related with it?

Douglas Wolfson: There is always anticipation that criminals will adapt to new technologies quicker, this can oftentimes lead to better risk management solutions in the long run. Take cryptocurrencies as an example; at first, there was real concern around money laundering due to anonymity in the cryptocurrency landscape. However, once Financial Action Task Force (FATF) released the interpretive notes for recommendations 15 (New Technologies) and 16 (Wire Transfers), which required KYC and AML screening for virtual asset service providers and transaction tracking, the mechanisms of cryptocurrency made it possible to track transactions and potentially know end users. Further, as all transactions are public and the blockchain is immutable, specific coins can be tracked forever. This is a significantly better situation than with cash, which is extremely difficult to monitor and track. Hence while significant advances in technology do court various risks, these are often addressed through effective risk management solutions.

Talk to us about the evolving role of risk solution providers in such a dynamic regulatory environment?

Douglas Wolfson: Risk solution providers are essential to regulated entities in terms of helping them understand evolving regulations both in terms of consulting on how the regulatory environment is evolving and what it means for these entities in terms of solutions provided to their clients. For instance, in a situation where individuals and entities are increasingly being added to sanctions lists, end users must have rapid updates to the lists that they require for screening regular and potential new customers to ensure that they are capturing all of the risk in their client base. Here is where reliance on solution providers comes into the picture. Additionally, the need to have tools to match evolving or dynamic use cases forces solution providers to be nimble in how their products can help solve compliance issues, while constantly improving efficiency in customer workflows.

With increased monitoring of transactions, AML and fraud checks and extensive regulatory requirements, how can risks in the financial services industry be effectively managed?

Douglas Wolfson: The increasing use of data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence is essential to effectively manage and assess risk. End users require highly efficient processes to ensure that they can onboard and monitor as many customers as possible as businesses continue to evolve and expand. Therefore, compliance departments must be able to monitor risk without slowing down the business. This results in a reduction in false positives without a corresponding increase in false negatives. The best way to achieve this is through data analytics and algorithms that can find and automatically flag false positives, so that these transactions can pass, while ensuring that risky transactions are reviewed further.

What are some of the impact of Covid-19 on Financial Crime Compliance and how is it set to evolve in light of the pandemic?

Douglas Wolfson: COVID-19 has seen a very swift move to digital across all industry types, which further implies that those companies with digital platforms have seen a sharp uptick in onboardings and transactions. This emphasizes the ability to be able to quickly onboard new customers and monitor transactions at significantly increased rates than previously expected. However, this can essentially strain companies that haven’t been using compliance technology to its fullest potential as increase in onboarding customers means increased workloads for employees, slower onboarding and potentially slower transaction processing times. This is just one of the many impacts of Covid-19 that is currently plaguing the industry. Hence, we see that companies that are now quickly adapting to new trends, are focused more on technology and have also realized more success.

Considering APAC, significant strides have been made in the banking sector by extending licenses to allow new business models to compete with incumbents. What are some of the immediate opportunities for LexisNexis Risk Solutions with regard to this?

Douglas Wolfson: LexisNexis Risk Solutions supports the APAC-wide extension of licenses to new banking business models. Competition will help the banking business flourish and bring in new technologies and advances that will change the way that we all bank. With this comes a need for end-to-end e-KYC solution, which we provide. We are excited to discuss with this sector of the market how we can help support digital and device KYC, identity verification and authentication, KYC/AML and sanctions screening and ongoing monitoring of the business, all using exception-only processing. Further, we also believe that this is key to the future of digital banking.

Looking at the next 5 years, what are some of the changes in risk management and compliance that could shape the workings of the financial services industry?

Douglas Wolfson: Over the past five to ten years, we have seen the development of risk based approaches in major APAC markets and we expect this is to continue to expand throughout the region. Regulators overwhelmingly agree that check box compliance management does not work and thus there is a need to continue expanding the RBA approach throughout the region. This, along with the implementation of more and better technological solutions, will help to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of compliance departments, which will help to grow overall businesses.

Al Hilal Bank Leading the way through simplified banking

Al Hilal Bank: Leading the way through simplified banking

It is no easy feat to create a digital bank of the future able to meet exacting consumer demands while transforming its business processes. But this is exactly what Al Hilal Bank, an Islamic bank headquartered in Abu Dhabi, has been able to achieve through its philosophy of “simplified banking.” Offering Shari’ah-compliant retail banking, treasury and wealth management solutions across the United Arab Emirates, its strong focus on UAE nationals makes Al Hilal a trusted name in this region. Recently, Al Hilal introduced an innovative digital on-boarding experience through its mobile app, Ahlan – a first-of-its-kind app in Islamic Banking offering simplicity and convenience like no other.

Having been awarded Best Digital Account Opening, Middle East at the recent Global Retail Banking Innovation Awards 2020 (GRB Awards) by The Digital Banker further solidifies its stature as a bank that leads the way.

“Ahlan, Al Hilal Bank’s mobile banking app has redefined the concept of digital account opening by enabling new-to-bank (NTB) customers to open new savings account instantaneously with the bank in just 3 simple steps.  Ahlan not only reduced Al Hilal’s cost of new-to-bank acquisition but also helped transform its sales channels,” commented Nirav Patel, Managing Director at The Digital Banker during the awards presentation.

“With Ahlan, UAE residents can open a bank account instantly from anywhere without having to visit the branch or provide their documents offline for verification.”

Ahlan: Simplified banking for a digital world

Ahlan was created with a vision to redefine new-to-bank customer on-boarding experience. With Ahlan, UAE residents can open a bank account instantly from anywhere without having to visit the branch or provide their documents offline for verification. Through 3 simple steps of 1) providing personal information, 2) documents scanning and 3) delivery, customers can instantly open a savings account and start their banking journey with Al Hilal.

The process has been designed from the ground up with simplicity and intuitiveness to ensure that customers across all segments can use the app with ease. The most advanced technology has been deployed to ensure that minimum information is required to be manually fed by the customer as the app has been made capable to capture maximum information from the scanned documents using tools like MRZ scanner and visualiser.

Functionalities like API integration is used to ensure regulatory guidelines are adhered to, and the customer is acquired as per the Bank’s policies and guidelines. During the delivery of the debit card, the customer’s Emirates ID (a chip-enabled card provided by the government to every UAE resident), is checked through a tablet device, which is linked to the Emirates ID authority for real-time verification. Only upon the successful verification does the account gets activated.

Through its sheer simplicity and unquestionable value to customers, Ahlan has been a tremendous success receiving an overwhelmingly positive response so far, with over 80% of NTB customers currently on-boarded through this channel. In addition, with over 22% of customers sourced through Ahlan being UAE nationals, this channel has been proven to contribute significantly to the Bank’s business objectives. Also, over 75% of all accounts acquired through Ahlan are funded within the first 30 days.

Indeed, the concept of digital onboarding has redefined the acquisition business model of Al Hilal Bank. Judging from its recent slew of achievements, its vision to enhance the Ahlan app to cater to customers across its entire lifecycle – from childhood to retirement – is very much within reach.

>> To read more about this story and other exclusive features about the digital banking landscape, download the latest issue of The Digital Banker Magazine HERE.


Image: Sophie James / Shutterstock.com


Finastra’s core banking platform, an accelerator of growth and innovation

Finastra’s core banking platform, an accelerator of growth and innovation

It has been several months into the Coronavirus outbreak, and the world is still reeling from its impact. Different institutions and sectors are feeling the impact in multiple ways, and the financial markets are no different. Financial institutions have had to adopt new processes to deliver their customer services and it looks like these processes will remain even after the pandemic has passed.

The world of consumer banking is currently undergoing a massive shift. Driven by the explosion of new technology, market changes and the far-reaching impact of the pandemic, retail banks are forced to compete in an environment with thin margins and tough regulations. As such, banks need to have an extremely agile and flexible platform that enables them to fend off competition and accelerate growth. Finastra’s Fusion Essence 2020 responds to all these market challenges. Partnering with Microsoft Azure for cloud enablement and Power BI for data analytics, this comprehensive solution helps banking institutions optimise cost, mitigate risk and continually meet the changing needs of customers.

Just recently, Finastra was awarded Winner, Best Core Banking Software Suite at the recent Global Retail Banking Innovation Awards 2020 (GRB Awards) by The Digital Banker.

“Finastra unlocks the potential of people and businesses in finance, creating a platform for open innovation. Fusion Essence 2020 is a next- generation core banking platform that forms the foundation for Finastra’s digital suite of applications. With all key banking services built-in, including mobile and internet-first digital access, the solution helps banking customers drive growth, innovation and security, making it an invaluable solution in today’s highly competitive environment,” said Nirav Patel, Managing Director at The Digital Banker during the awards presentation.

“Finastra unlocks the potential of people and businesses in finance, creating a platform for open innovation.”

Next-generation core banking platform

Fusion Essence 2020 is a next-generation core banking platform that forms the foundation for Finastra’s digital suite of applications. All the key banking services such as party, accounts, deposits, loans and payments are built-in, with a rich set of web services that boost business functionality. This translates to high levels of STP because the solution is delivered with pre-configured processes aligned to banking best practices. The solution also includes optional components such as Islamic banking, teller, and analytics using Microsoft’s Power BI.

Fusion Essence is an advanced core banking system that is digital to the core, customer-centric, and cloud-enabled for next-generation banking, covering retail and commercial banking whether conventional or Islamic.

  • Available with pre-integrated digital engagement capabilities for mobile, internet and branch to drive a superior frictionless and tailored customer experience to support banks’ go-to-market campaigns.
  • Seamless 24×7 capability removing the operational risk and cost of more legacy solutions.
  • Multi-entity, multi-currency, multi-lingual, multi-time zone, one central source of operation thereby reducing support and running costs.
  • Has inbuilt standard banking processes and workflows to streamline operations, increase STP and reduce the cost of ownership.
  • Includes a workbench and product launching capability; reducing time to market for new products by over 50% and putting the bank in control; avoiding increased vendor costs.

This next-generation banking platform has been recognised as a leader amongst retail banking solutions. “The Forrester Wave™: Digital Banking Processing Platforms Q3 2020” report illustrates that Finastra is leading the way by combining next-generation technologies with extensive business capabilities. It has also been recognised by Gartner in its Global Retail Core Banking Magic Quadrant saying, “No other core banking vendor has market-leading digital channels integrated with the core.”

“Fusion Essence is an advanced core banking system that is digital to the core, customer-centric, and cloud enabled for next generation banking, covering retail and commercial banking whether conventional or Islamic.”

Success with Digital Banks and Neobanks in Asia

Finastra’s Fusion Essence Cloud is revolutionising banking across Asia. TONIK, the first licensed digital-only bank in Southeast Asia, has selected Fusion Essence Cloud to power its end-to-end core banking capabilities. The move supports TONIK as it launches its retail deposit and customer loans services, giving it agility and the ability to scale quickly – and further revolutionise banking in the Philippines.

The key proposition for digital banks is providing a customer experience that traditional banks struggle to offer. This requires modern, cloud-native technology that facilitates innovation whilst future-proofing investment. Fusion Essence Cloud enables TONIK to benefit from a low cost of entry into the market, ease and speed of deployment, and the ability to increase business volumes and diversify its product set cost-effectively.

Greg Krasnov, Founder & CEO at TONIK, said, “The banking sector in the Philippines is ripe for digital disruption. The country has high internet usage, the majority of Filipinos are unbanked and research shows half of the people who do have bank accounts would be interested in switching to a neobank.”

On the other hand, Yoma Bank in Myanmar upgraded its Fusion Essence solution to enable them to leverage open APIs and collaborate with third parties, enhancing customer experience with a 7% increase in bank’s gross profit in one year. The suite of new digital banking offerings enabled Yoma Bank to reach out to more customers, increase its market share and make Yoma Bank a truly nationwide bank.

Other Fusion Essence users have also expanded their branch network, increased profit by business quarter, doubled transaction processing speed across all channels and reduced time taken to complete end-of-day processing.

>> To read more about this story and other exclusive features about the digital banking landscape, download the latest issue of The Digital Banker Magazine HERE.

Wave Money Advancing Greater Financial Inclusion in Myanmar

Wave Money: Advancing Greater Financial Inclusion in Myanmar

Covering more than 91% of the country, Wave Money is the largest mobile financial services provider in Myanmar. It has pioneered mobile financial technology in Myanmar and has played a pivotal role in the country’s digital transformation. The financial institution’s digital wallet, WavePay, is a super app that meets the lifestyle needs of digital natives in rapidly urbanising Myanmar while helping advance greater financial inclusion among the unbanked population in the countryside.

WavePay offers a convenient, secure, simple and reliable way to remit and receive money, pay utility bills and loans, top up mobile services, shop online as well as pay at physical checkout counters.

It is also the digital wallet of choice among government, non-government organisations, humanitarian agencies and cause-oriented groups in Myanmar.

Recognising this exceptional feat, Wave Money has been awarded Winner, Best Digital Wallet of the Year and Winner, Best Mobile Payments Service at the recent Global Retail Banking Innovation Awards 2020 (GRB Awards) by The Digital Banker.

“WavePay is a digital wallet that meets the lifestyle needs of digital natives in Myanmar. During this COVID-19 pandemic, through its “WavePay It Forward” campaign, Wave Money was able to help government, NGOs and humanitarian agencies securely mobilise and disburse emergency funds to vulnerable sectors. In 2020, Wave Money moved an equivalent of 11.5% of Myanmar’s GDP just on remittances, a true testament of the impact and the scale of its operations,” said Nirav Patel, Managing Director at The Digital Banker during the awards ceremony.

“With a vision to greater financial inclusion, Wave Money has brought the benefits of financial services to millions of Myanmar citizens who were previously unbanked and underserved.”

Helping vulnerable sectors through the “WavePay It Forward” campaign

Technology has helped transform many businesses and organisations. For Wave Money, technology can be a force for good. As part of its community outreach, it initiated the “WavePay It Forward” campaign, with the aim to help vulnerable sectors during the COVID-19 pandemic. Governmental organisations, humanitarian agencies and corporate entities have teamed up with Wave Money and leveraged WavePay to effectively deliver cash assistance for social security payments, loans for farmers, emergency funds for garment workers, and cash relief for street vendors. Wave Money has waived all service fees related to the disbursements of these funds.

“Digitally-delivered financial assistance is an efficient crisis response. It saves time and resources for development organisations and government. Wave Money’s support for a number of COVID-19 humanitarian programmes and our own ‘WavePay It Forward’ fund-raising is in line with our mission to create a fairer future for Myanmar through financial inclusion. More importantly, it is in line with what every one of us believes — that technology is a force for good. “ said Brad Jones, CEO of Wave Money. Myanmar’s Social Security Board, the Myanmar Agricultural Development Bank (MADB), the Myan Ku Fund project of the European Union, multi-sector fund-raising campaign “I Do Nation”, and Free Cash Program for the Needy (FCPN) project are among those that used WavePay free-of-charge. In parallel, Wave Money has also run a public donation platform through WavePay to raise funds for Myanmar’s National Level Central Committee on Prevention, Control and Treatment of COVID-19. Also, Wave Money successfully launched the campaign #StayStrongMyanmar which consolidates all active programmes and community support for sectors adversely affected by COVID-19 and their digital platform, as the trusted channel for COVID-19 relief government and NGOs fund disbursements, was responsible for channelling direct subsidies to 300,000 beneficiaries. In total, the 2020 transactions channelled through the donation and disbursement channels to those severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic reached 32 billion kyat (US$ 24 million).

“In 2020 alone, Wave Money moved a total of 12 trillion Myanmar kyat (US$ 8.7 Billion) in remittances which is equivalent to about 11.5% of Myanmar’s gross domestic product (GDP).”

Using WavePay, millions were able to transfer money and make daily payments and financial transactions in the comfort and safety of their own homes. Wave Money has processed more than US$ 24 Million in disbursements and emergency relief to at-risk sectors since the first wave of COVID-19 hit Myanmar.

Greater financial inclusion benefits millions of Myanmar citizens

With a vision to greater financial inclusion, Wave Money has brought the benefits of financial services to millions of Myanmar citizens who were previously unbanked and underserved. For example, in 2015, less than 20% of the population had access to formal financial services. Since then, this number has grown by leaps and bounds.

In 2020 alone, Wave Money moved a total of 12 trillion Myanmar kyat (US$ 8.7 Billion) in remittances which is equivalent to about 11.5% of Myanmar’s gross domestic product (GDP).

During the same period, total disbursements from government, humanitarian and non-government sectors also grew to more than 32 Billion Myanmar kyat (US$ 24 Million).

From mobilising and disbursing funds for COVID-19 relief to sustaining lives and livelihoods through trustworthy money transfer and electronic payment, indeed, Wave Money is a testament to the far-reaching social impact of fintech.

>> To read more about this story and other exclusive features about the digital banking landscape, download the latest issue of The Digital Banker Magazine HERE.


Image: MICKIE.K / Shutterstock.com

HSBC Malaysia Eliminating Friction in Foreign Currency Transfers

HSBC Malaysia: Eliminating Friction in Foreign Currency Transfers

HSBC is one of the largest and most recognisable banking institutions in the world, with operations in 64 countries and territories and millions of customers across its businesses. Leveraging on the strength of its global footprint, HSBC Malaysia is pushing the boundaries of innovation to deliver maximum customer convenience. Its 24/7 Foreign Currency Transfers with real-time foreign currency conversion, allows customers to link HSBC accounts in multiple countries and transact within a single online banking experience. By transcending the limits of geographical borders and location, the team had been able to provide seamless online channel capabilities, helping HSBC Malaysia reach out to local and international customers at a scale never been achieved before.

Having been bestowed the award, Winner, Best Frictionless Customer Relationship Management at the recent Global Retail Banking Innovation Awards 2020 (GRB Awards) by The Digital Banker only proves that HSBC Malaysia is relentless when it comes to providing the best experience for its customers.

“The 24/7 foreign currency conversion service helps customers save more as they can buy and sell currencies at favourable rates, anytime.”

“HSBC Malaysia’s passion to meet the increasing demands of its customers is truly admirable. Through GVGT, the team had been able to remove customer’s restriction on a fixed transaction schedule by empowering customers to conduct a global transfer from anywhere in the world, 24/7. This initiative is a significant step towards achieving the Bank’s goal if making banking cost-effective and personalised for its customers,” said Nirav Patel, Managing Director at The Digital Banker during the awards ceremony.

Faster transfers. Seamless experience.

HSBC Malaysia’s 24/7 Foreign Currency Transfers with Real-Time Foreign Currency Conversion leverages on the strength of HSBC’s established experience and ubiquitous presence in all corners of the world. The 24/7 foreign currency conversion service helps customers save more as they can buy and sell currencies at favourable rates, anytime.

With Global View Global Transfer (GVGT), customers with HSBC accounts in multiple countries or territories can easily link their accounts and transfer funds between these accounts. As a result, it enables customers to have a single view of all their Global HSBC accounts. Once customers have linked their accounts together, they would be able to conduct instant Global Transfer, seamlessly. They can also set up future or recurring transfers to manage future transactions.

“With GVGT, customers with HSBC accounts in multiple countries or territories can link their accounts and transfer funds between these accounts.”

On top of this great initiative, HSBC Malaysia has also launched Global Transfer Friends and Family (GTFF) where customers can make instant transfers to friends and family with HSBC accounts. Some of the most notable features of GTFF include:

  • Ability to perform instant transfers to 22 sites
  • Exclusively available to Premier and Advance customers
  • Instant transfer to overseas HSBC third party personal accounts and;
  • Waiver of fees waived for Premier customers
  • Global Transfer fee is also waived for Advance customers effective 7 Dec 2020
  • HSBC Malaysia customers will be able to receive instant fund transfer from other GTFF enabled sites (Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam

The successful rollout and implementation of HSBC Malaysia’s full suite of cutting-edge Global Transfer capabilities make it a top contender for customer experience leadership. The real-time foreign currency conversion with the ability to hyper-personalise foreign exchange rates down to customer-level is a clever manoeuvre to reward the Bank’s most loyal customers. From a business point, the upside is equally impressive with foreign exchange contribution increasing by 28% compared to the previous year (2019). There has also been a notable increase in Global accounts opening across key markets such as Australia, Canada, China, France, Greece, Hong Kong, India, UK and USA.

>> To read more about this story and other exclusive features about the digital banking landscape, download the latest issue of The Digital Banker Magazine HERE.


Image: Abdul malik bin madrasah / Shutterstock.com

Standard Chartered Malaysia Offering smart wealth solutions to build sustainable trust

Standard Chartered Malaysia: Offering smart wealth solutions to build sustainable trust

For a number of years now, Standard Chartered Wealth Management in Malaysia has been investing in areas that matter deeply to its customers. Understanding that every client is unique, it aims to make quality advisory accessible to its clients. Its value proposition is based around what StanChart calls the SMART Wealth Management framework. The SMART framework focuses on areas which include Solutions, Market insights, Advisory, Relationship management and Technology to help StanChart gain a good understanding of what its clients want and how to help them achieve their financial goals.

This laudable strategy did not go unnoticed and just recently, Standard Chartered Wealth Malaysia has been conferred the award Winner, Best Mass Affluent Banking Offering at the Global Retail Banking Innovation Awards 2020 (GRB Awards) by The Digital Banker.

“The SMART Wealth Management framework by Standard Chartered Bank is truly world-class. Through this framework, clients benefit from personalised and comprehensive advisory services delivered by a team of expert. In addition, they also enjoy transactional convenience offered via digital and remote transactional capabilities. By leveraging on technology, the bank has been able to deploy a robust digital investment platform, making StanChart Wealth Malaysia a trusted advisor to its clients nurturing a sustainable relationship with its clients,” said Nirav Patel, Managing Director at The Digital Banker during the awards virtual gala.

The SMART Framework

At the heart of StanChart’s SMART framework is the bank’s expertise in offering personalised investment advisory services to its clients across the footprint. As the industry shifts towards a more personalised approach to advisory services, the Bank’s relationship managers are being supported by a panel of internal wealth management specialists able to provide bespoke solutions that are further optimised by technology.

The Bank’s investment philosophy starts with the idea that diversity of perspectives, views and decision-makers are crucial when it comes to countering many of the decision-making biases all investors face. StanChart gathers as many views as possible from leading investment banks, independent research houses, central banks, asset managers and international organisations such as the IMF, World Bank and Bank of International Settlements before arriving at a particular conclusion or recommendation.

“At the heart of StanChart’s SMART framework is the bank’s expertise in offering personalised investment advisory services to its clients across the footprint.”

The team uses deep research and data analytics to perform adequate market and product due diligence. This is supplemented by products that are responsive to the peculiar needs of the market. For example, StanChart’s Asset Transfer programme is a solution that lets clients pool their investments under one roof, enabling them to get a 360⁰ view of their holdings. This product caters to the need for account aggregation services where one-stop shop for wealth management is in high demand.

StanChart’s SMART framework is further fortified by the bank’s strength in its technological capabilities.

StanChart, of late, has been investing heavily in digital capabilities offering its clients seamless access to their investments and other holdings with the bank.

One such example is StanChart’s SmartGoals, a digital investment platform that allows clients to take up investment products for as low as RM400, without the need to physically visit a bank branch. This first-of-its-kind platform is available through both the SC Mobile smartphone app and Standard Chartered online banking website.

Instead of trading investment products, the idea behind SmartGoals is to get people to think about their financial goals and then help them craft a path towards achieving them. As the platform is intelligent enough to understand the client’s risk tolerance and return preferences, it can offer a diversified portfolio of mutual funds tailored to those preferences.

For clients who favour access to more DIY options and prefer to trade within their own portfolios, StanChart has also recently launched its SmartDirect platform which offers one-touch access to more than 200 mutual funds available in as many as 5 different currencies. The bank is also committed to fulfilling the foreign currency needs of its clients and to that end has also recently launched LiveFX, a client-facing FX trading platform.

Lastly, in addition to its transactional capabilities, SC Wealth Malaysia has been one of the first banks in Malaysia to leverage on video conferencing capabilities within the government-imposed lockdown period, allowing them to reach out to clients without the need for physical interaction.

This, combined with its breadth of digital capabilities, has allowed  SC Wealth Malaysia to reach out to clients and continue servicing them throughout the turbulent times arising from the global Covid-19 pandemic.

“The idea behind SmartGoals is to get people to think about their financial goals and then help them craft a path towards achieving them.”

Personal, effortless, and safe

By truly understanding clients’ needs – even in times of crisis – StanChart has been able to respond with initiatives that make wealth management easier for its clients. The SMART Wealth Management framework has benefited clients through:

  • Personalised and comprehensive advice -clients get personalised services from their Relationship Managers who are supported by a team of wealth specialists that help clients create short and long-term financial strategies suitable for their needs or preferences.
  • Technology – cutting-edge platforms such as SmartGoals, SmartDirect, and LiveFX enable clients to seamlessly act on StanChart’s expert investment advisory capabilities.
  • Safety and convenience – both digital and remote transactional capabilities have enabled clients to access wealth management offerings from anywhere, anytime at the comfort of their own homes especially during the COVID-19 restricted movement period.

>> To read more about this story and other exclusive features about the digital banking landscape, download the latest issue of The Digital Banker Magazine HERE.

Taipei Fubon Bank Optimising Wealth Management Through Data Analytics

Taipei Fubon Bank: Optimising Wealth Management Through Data Analytics

The dramatic growth of the fintech sector has been on full display over the past couple of years. Industry estimates put the global fintech market to grow at a CAGR of around 20% between 2020 and 2025. This dramatic improvement in fintech innovations has been embraced by Taipei Fubon Bank, making it an important pillar in its growth strategy. Currently, Bank has 4.60 million regular account holders and more than 400,000 wealth management customers with access to over 700 financial consultants. To effectively manage its different wealth management segments, Taipei Fubon Bank turned data analytics to streamline the data search process and optimise its decision making to a level where it can bring the greatest impact.

It is only fitting that Taipei Fubon Bank has been awarded Winner, Best Data Analytics Initiative at the recent Global Retail Banking Innovation Awards 2020 (GRB Awards) by The Digital Banker.

“Taipei Fubon Bank continues to promote and apply cutting edge technologies to product management, client journey monitoring, client relationship management, and the tracking of client spending patterns. Its accomplishments in data analytics are truly one of a kind. Digital innovation is clearly embedded in Fubon’s corporate DNA,” said Nirav Patel, Managing Director at The Digital Banker during the awards presentation.

Strengthening performance and customer stickiness

Fubon ventured to create a dynamic online sales support system and management dashboard called “Dynamic Minority Report – Sales Dashboard”, that provides tools needed to manage financial consultants and optimise the wealth management client base. It compiles massive amounts of Bank data into an interactive data visualisation interface that gives managers at all levels the information they need through a company computer – and even a mobile phone – to quickly set strategies and manage their businesses, anytime, anywhere.

Working with the help of customer relationship, product and channel department resources, the team came up with a system that provides interactive indicators to eliminate blind spots in managing performance. A mobile phone version of the performance monitoring system has been developed for managers to stay on top of branch activity. Ultimately, the weekly and monthly business review meetings of the past have been streamlined into daily or real-time checks of information on client journeys in different dimensions.

The Dynamic Minority Report – Sales Dashboard system also enabled users to set different levels of authorisation, so that managers at varying levels of the organisation can get access to specific ranges of information they need to manage and adjust their strategies accordingly. This 360° interactive model for sharing information contributed to Taipei Fubon Bank’s growth in assets under management, loans under management, total revenue and the number of high-net-worth clients in the first half of 2020 despite the challenges brought about by COVID-19.

“The dramatic improvement in fintech innovations has been embraced by Taipei Fubon Bank, making it an important pillar in its growth strategy.”

Sterling results

The results are nothing less than stellar. The real-time monitoring capability of the online sales support dashboard made it possible to observe changes in how financial consultants manage their client relationships and strengthen performance and customer stickiness. After the system was introduced in the early part of 2020, the Bank experienced significant growth in 1H 2020 in the following areas (YOY):

  • Assets Under Management: Up 8.9 per cent
  • Loans Under Management: Up 7.6 per cent
  • Total Revenue: Up 2.9 per cent
  • Number of High Net Worth Clients: Up 5.8 per cent

As results and performance can be observed in real-time through the dashboard, if any data point trends lower, the online sales support system reacts immediately, triggering an actionable response. In addition, the information in different dimensions can be called up at any time, dramatically reducing the time needed to check information and generate statements, resulting in much more robust decision-making capabilities.

“As results and performance can be observed in real-time through the dashboard, if any data point trends lower, the online sales support system reacts immediately, triggering an actionable response.”

This phenomenal outcome only strengthens the fact that the role of data is changing in the era of big data and digitisation. Once used in a supporting role to review or check operating results, data has now become an integral part of the decision-making process. Taipei Fubon Bank’s Dynamic Minority Report – Sales Dashboard helped generate valuable real-time data in Taiwan’s financial services sector and empowered managers to develop data-driven wealth management business models.

>> To read more about this story and other exclusive features about the digital banking landscape, download the latest issue of The Digital Banker Magazine HERE.