Retail Banker International hosted its seventh annual RBI Asia Trailblazer Summit at the Carlton Hotel in Singapore. Bringing together senior retail banking executives to discuss the future strategies for the region, Sruti Rao reports on the takeaways from the conference and the winners of the annual awards

Aligning to the digital wave in Asia is a constant topic of discussion and deliberation across board rooms in the region’s retail banking sphere.

The RBI Trailblazer Summit provided a platform for industry leaders to discuss the opportunities and implementation challenges that exist alongside their efforts to revamp their systems and re-engage customers.

Thinking ahead: Strategic decisions for future success

  • Natividad Alejo, President, BPI Family Savings Bank / Executive Vice-President and Head of Retail Segments and Channels Group, Bank of the Philippine Islands
  • Han Kwee Juan, Chief Executive Officer, Citibank Singapore
  • Christopher Bayliss, Managing Director and Global Head of Personal Clients Segment – Retail Clients Group, Standard Chartered Bank
  • Anand Bajaj, President for Innovation & Knowledge Management, YES Bank

Keynote speaker Han Kwee Juan of Citibank Singapore, highlighted three main trends arising in the retail banking sphere – the rise of the mobile population, the demographic trend towards cities, and the increasingly digital service models coming to the fore.

He said: "The rise of cities has caused populations to go towards the urban centre. We see this and it is a huge trend for us, and it is something that we feel ought to be addressed by all banks in the market."

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Kwee Juan also highlighted that as banks have embraced the digital bandwagon of online and mobile services, it is equally important for institutions to harness their security features alongside their product development.

"While we talk a lot about ‘let’s get on to digital, let’s get on to mobile’, one of the biggest things that banks need to focus on, is to go get your internet security, go get cyber security. Customer data needs to be secured and never compromised, because the moment trust is broken, you can forget about digital."

For smaller local banks, the trend towards customer-centricity has also become a key strategy. However, there remains a challenge in changing the mindset of institutions.

Natividad Alejo, President, BP Family Savings Bank, added: "We just recently shifted our view from being very much focused on products to having an unrelenting focus on the customer. This shift not only enforces technology, but more importantly, requires a different mindset from all the people in the organisation. This is a different type of customer. There needs to be an understanding that customers are varied. Therefore, being able to deal with the right kind of interaction, and the right kind of experience, for that unique customer is necessary."

Nonetheless, it remains hard for banks to keep pace with these customer expectations. This is due to legacy infrastructures that remain in place – a stark contrast to the more agile non-bank players entering the industry. Anand Bajaj said: "Banking is full of legacies and infrastructure. The likes of Facebook and others do not have a direct relationship with the customer itself. We have our work cut out for us and have to think hard on how to solve this."

The shift to digital banking

  • Edrick Ho, Head of Digital and Channel Management – Retail Banking Asia Pacific, ANZ Banking Group
  • Keith Shaw, Client Partner for Global Banking & Financial Markets (GB&FM) – Asia, Middle East & Africa, BT Global Services
  • Domenic Fuda, Managing Director and Deputy Group Head, Consumer Banking and Wealth Management, Development Bank of Singapore
  • Rajat Mehta, President and Country Head for Brand & Retail Marketing, YES Bank

The rising penetration of digital banking services was the central topic of the second panel opened by Domenic Fuda of DBS Bank. Highlighting the central digital push of the bank, Fuda hypothesised that the medium of online, mobile and social channels need to be driven by the priority of providing the customer with an easy, convenient and seamless experience. DBS’s various programmes, including its SMS queue initiative, were put forward as a successful example of how convenience can drive revenue in the front-end.

Fuda said: "The simple service gave the customers less time at the branch, but it brought about better customer engagement. We found double digit growth of products sold at the branch as a result of this investment, and, overall, brought a positive experience."

As Anand Bajaj elaborated, expanding the digital servicing of clients is key to bringing customer loyalty: "There are very certain correlations between digital penetration and customer behaviour. Customers can have two or three bank accounts but digital plays a role in becoming that primary bank. Customers who use digital applications tend to have a higher balance in their primary bank."

Nonetheless, the sophistication of your digital product is important in the competitive Asian market, as Keith Shaw highlighted, because delivering a sub-par experience for the customer makes efforts in engaging with the customers redundant.

Shaw commented: "The user is becoming so savvy with technology. It gives them the ability to find answers and solutions. What that means is your success or failure will come down to your product. Be careful how much technology you give people, because by giving them more technology, it gives them the ability to choose. In having that ability to choose, unless the end product is adequate, you are not going to be as successful as your competitor."

The importance of collaborative partnerships was also touched upon as a growing opportunity in the region, for the advantages of scale and agility that they provide. Edrick Ho of ANZ Bank commented: "We have to be part of other ecosystems. Especially when it comes to digitisation, there is scale in other industries that we can only dream of in banking. Using the strength of the non-bank players through partnerships is a great opportunity. Adopting and learning from these partners in building your own capabilities needs to be developed.

"To be great bankers, you have to be technologists nowadays, and banks have to build that capability within their organisations."

Financial inclusion: The profit potential in ‘banking for all’

  • Thomas DeLuca, Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder, AMP Credit Technologies
  • Justin Hadgkiss, Head of ATM and Alternative Channels for Asia Pacific, ANZ Banking Group
  • Juanita Woodward, Principal, CTD Connecting the Dots
  • Gilda Pico, President & Chief Executive Officer, Land Bank of the Philippines
  • Angelito Villanueva, Vice President and Head of Financial Innovation, Digital Inclusion & Alliances, Smart e-Money, Inc.

The final session of the summit looked at the emerging issue of financial inclusion and the ecosystem that has to be built within Asian markets to bring this opportunity to fruition. The use of mobile money was highlighted by Angelito Villanueva of Smart e-Money due to the scalable and accessible solutions they provide partnering institutions in banking the poor.

Justin Hadgkiss echoed this sentiment in the session. He said that mobile payments provide an alternative and more effective channel of reaching the unbanked than brick and mortar systems.

Hadgkiss said: "Businesses must be sustainable, and like every large volume, emerging markets initiative you need time and investment. Considering the cost to implement a bank branch or installing an ATM with information security, hardware, and software, mobile money is a fantastic way to provide that reach without having to go through traditional channels."

The session highlighted the opportunity in rural banking services within emerging markets, as Gilda Pico from Landbank explained, with the bank’s core proposition being to partner with local banks and communities to bring more accessible credit.

However, a complementary view to this was added by Tom Deluca of AMP Technologies, on the opportunities that exist even in developed markets to provide for smaller business communities, ignored by the banking sphere.

De Luca concluded: "There are certainly financially excluded groups right here in Singapore. We provide to smaller businesses that are on the banking grid, with our credit technologies, loan origination and servicing platform that allows banks to reach out to these communities effectively and for these businesses to gain access to credit."

RBI Asia Trailblazer Awards 2015: The Winners

Service Excellence in Customer Experience:
Winner: DBS Bank, Singapore
Highly commended: Krungsriayudhya Card Co. Ltd, Thailand

Service Excellence in Mass Affluent Banking:
Winner: Taishin Bank, Taiwan
Highly commended: Maybank, Malaysia

Service Excellence in Service Innovation:
Winner: Indusind Bank, India
Highly commended: DBS Bank, Hong Kong

Service Excellence in SME Banking:
Winner: Alliance Bank, Malaysia

Best Initiative in Financial Inclusion:
Winner: YES Bank, India
Highly commended: AMP Credit Technologies, Hong Kong
Highly commended: Bank Danamon, Indonesia

Product Excellence in Bancassurance:
Winner: Bank Danamon, Indonesia

Product Excellence in Loans:
Winner: Citibank, Philippines
Highly commended: DBS Bank, Singapore

Product Excellence in Mortgages:
Winner: ANZ Bank, Singapore

Product Excellence in Cards:
Winner: ANZ Bank, Indonesia
Highly commended: DBS Bank, Singapore

Product Excellence in Investment Services – Retail Clients:
Winner: Standard Chartered Bank, Taiwan
Highly commended: DBS Bank, China

Process Excellence in Communication and Client Onboarding:
Winner: Standard Chartered Bank, Korea
Highly commended: Indusind Bank, India

Process Excellence in Collection and Debt Management:
Winner: ICICI Bank, India
Highly commended: Religare Finvest, India

Process Excellence in Loan Origination:
Winner: ANZ Bank, Indonesia
Highly commended: Land Bank of the Philippines

Channel Excellence in Internet Banking – Overall:
Winner: UOB, Singapore
Highly commended: CTBC Bank, Taiwan

Channel Excellence in Internet Banking – Cross-Border:
Winner: CIMB Niaga, Indonesia
Highly commended: Standard Chartered Bank, Vietnam

Channel Excellence in Mobile Banking – Overall:
Winner: DBS Bank, Singapore
Highly commended: Maybank, Singapore

Channel Excellence in Mobile Banking – Customisation
Winner: Taishin Bank, Taiwan
Highly commended: CIMB Niaga, Indonesia

Channel Excellence in Social Media:
Winner: YES Bank, India
Highly commended: DBS Bank, Singapore

Channel Excellence in Service Delivery – ATM
Winner: HBL, Pakistan
Highly commended: UOB, Singapore

Most Innovative Branch Offering:
Winner: Bank of East Asia, Hong Kong
Highly commended: Citibank, Singapore

Channel Excellence in Multi-Channel Integration:
Winner: ANZ Bank, New Zealand
Highly commended: DBS Bank, China

Strategy Excellence in Business Model Innovation:
Winner: Maybank, Malaysia
Highly commended: CIMB Thai Bank, Thailand

Strategy Excellence in Dynamic Third-Party Partnership:
Winner: Krungsriayudhya Card Co. Ltd, Thailand
Highly commended: Standard Chartered Bank, Singapore

Strategy Excellence in Customer-Centricity:
Winner: DBS Bank, Singapore
Highly commended: ANZ Bank, Australia

Best Marketing Campaign:
Winner: Taishin Bank, Taiwan
Highly commended: Standard Chartered Bank, Singapore

Best Community Outreach Programme:
Winner: DBS, India
Highly commended: Alliance Bank, Malaysia

Best Graduate Programme
Winner: Alliance Bank, Malaysia

Best Staff Training Programme
Winner: DBS Bank, Hong Kong