UOB banks on $368M digital investment to grow Asean customers

Singapore bank unveils plans to invest up to SG$500 million to beef up its digital capabilities and drive efforts to double the number of retail customers across Asean to seven million by 2026.

UOB is banking on a SG$500 million ($368.6 million) plan to beef up its digital capabilities and drive efforts to double its retail customer base across Asean to seven million. It is aiming to reach that target by 2026, where its investment roadmap will include melding its digital bank and mobile app into a single platform.

The Singapore bank noted that digital banking now was the preferred choice for many of its customers, with the global pandemic fuelling the adoption of online services

Digital payment platforms in Singapore, for instance, had seen usage climb by more than 200% last year, UOB said in a statement Wednesday, pointing to e-payment services such as PayNow and QR code. In comparison, physical cash deposits and withdrawals dipped by more than 30%, the bank said. 

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Emphasising user engagement as a significant service differentiator for digital banking, UOB played up its ability to anticipate and serve relevant insights and services to customers based on their banking patterns. 

The bank in 2019 launched its digital bank service TMRW, which currently is available in Indonesia and Thailand as well as Singapore. Describing the platform as a digital engagement engine powered by artificial intelligent (AI), UOB said TMRW was able to categorise fintech services and analyse large volumes of transaction data in real-time. 

Since it introduced of AI-powered personalised insights in November 2019, UOB said it had pushed more than 40 million of such data to customers in Singapore. It added that its TMRW team comprised staff versed in behavioural science, data science, and technology. 

The bank now would look to integrate the TMRW platform with its UOB Mighty mobile app as part of the SG$500 million investment plan to build up its digital capabilities. 

Called UOB TMRW, the integrated platform had been rolled out as a pilot amongst the bank's employees in Singapore. When successfully completed, the service would be extended to its local customers later this year, with UOB Mighty users to be moved to the integrated platform. The mobile banking app is available on both Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

UOB TMRW then would be progressively rolled out to "key Asean markets", the bank said, adding that this next phase would kick off in the next 18 months. 

UOB operates a network of 500 branches and offices in 19 markets worldwide, including banking subsidiaries in Malaysia, Vietnam, and China. 

Its CEO and deputy chairman Wee Ee Cheong said COVID-19 had accelerated digital adoption to a level where this mode of engagement now was the dominant preference amongst consumers. 

"Now is the right time to bring our digital bank capabilities together," Wee said. "By harnessing the best of TMRW and UOB Mighty in one platform, we can tap economies of scale to accelerate innovation especially in the area of hyper-personalised digital banking experiences and speed to market."

UOB's head of TMRW and group digital banking Kevin Lam added: "We envision a future where the UOB digital banking experience and the solutions and services we offer are adapted to each customer, based on their banking patterns. In this next phase, we are making it our goal to explore how technology can enable us to make the digital banking of tomorrow smarter and even more intuitive for our customers."

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