S'pore bank finds opportunity, challenge in mobile era

OCBC says pervasive use of Web-connected mobile devices and social networks has compelled banks to tweak their service models in order to meet customer demand for "instant, now".

S'pore bank finds opportunity, challenge in mobile era

The proliferation of Internet-enabled mobile devices and growing adoption of social networks have pushed one Singapore bank to relook the way it interacts with its customers, in particular, the younger generation.

OCBC is Singapore's longest established local bank, with a history that dates back to 1912. Today, it is Southeast Asia's second-largest financial services group, with a network of over 500 branches and representative offices in 15 economies, including Singapore, China and the United States.

With its 100-year history, the bank understands the need to constantly evolve its business model. According to Anthony Johnson, OCBC's head of consumer business transformation, the pervasive use of Web-connected mobile devices and social networks has compelled banks to react and tweak their service models.

Johnson said: "We're all experiencing forces of change today...it really is driving fundamental change to customer needs and behavior. Banks need to be responsive to that. We had a relook at the way we open relationships for customers and went through a process of building a whole new interaction."

Part of this transformation looked at the way OCBC interacted with its younger customers, he added, noting that it earmarked this market segment as a growth opportunity.

However, it also meant that the bank would have to tweak its processes to better meet the demands and behavior patterns of this customer demographic which, he said, sought the need for "self-expression".

"After setting up their bank account, they want to engage the bank remotely. They want to use Twitter, Facebook, the Internet and so on, so we built a whole model around that," Johnson explained.

Social networks provide an additional channel to complement conversations with customers and help solve service issues, he said. These social networking sites also allow companies to identify potential problems and "sense" emerging trends or changing user behaviors and requirements, he noted.

He added that mobile computing also offers a new means for the bank to engage consumers, who see it as a valuable tool to transact.

This required OCBC to rethink the traditional role of bank branches, amid the increasing customer demand to be able to interact remotely and independently of these physical branches, Johnson said.

The emergence of mobile technologies has also provided new ways for banks to deliver value-add services including location-based offerings. "If a customer happens to be in a shopping area where the bank has a privilege or offer attached to its credit card, we can make the customer aware of it immediately," he explained.

But, along with these opportunities for growth, comes the challenge of having to support the need for immediacy, especially as consumers become increasingly connected.

Noting that mobile adoption had created a set of expectations around "instant, now", Johnson said: "We're really seeing this generation that's saying, 'you need to be able to deliver to me right here right now, and at my convenience, not yours'. This has caused us to fundamentally rethink our model."