First off: a huge thank you to all of the entrants in the 15th annual RBI Asia Trailblazer awards. The warmest of congratulations to all of the winners. Once again, it is gratifying to note that a record number of institutions participated this year. The link here contains a summary of all of the winners.

It is very obvious from the calibre of the entries that a massive amount of attention has been taken to the submissions.

It really does highlight that the region’s leading banks are to be commended and celebrated for their world class levels of innovation.

And as always, a massive thank you to the judges and my colleagues at MEED. Administering the annual awards, receiving entries and completion of the judging process is a Herculean task.

Two of the winners merit special mention ahead of the awards special report being published.

Asia Trailblazer of the Year 2024 (Institution): UOB

In summary, UOB has enjoyed a stellar year. It continues to build its retail banking franchise and drive its growing regional value proposition with its underlying commitment to personalisation anchored by customer centric product innovation.

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On all the key retail banking metrics, this has been a standout year for UOB. Total income and net interest income growth are at notable highs boosted by strong credit cards metrics. The bank has also posted strong balance sheet growth with a double digit rise in deposits.

UOB’s continuous drive for innovation is evidenced in a number of areas such as notable payments initiatives and wealth management.

Again, in those areas, the bank’s drive to offer personalisation and optimise the customer experience shines through. This business success is all the more remarkable given the challenge of a number of key acquisitions. Last November, UOB completed the acquisition of Citigroup‘s consumer banking business in Indonesia. This followed successful completions in Malaysia and Thailand in November 2022 and Vietnam in March 2023.

It has been a transformative period for UOB and it is fitting that the bank is recognised with the headline award this year.

Asia Trailblazer of the Year 2024 (Individual): Pei Si Lai, CEO and MD, GXBank

GXBank is the first of five digital bank licence applicants to receive approval to commence operations from the Minister of Finance and Bank Negara Malaysia ahead of the April 2024 deadline set by BNM. A huge amount has been accomplished by the deserved winner of the individual award for Asia Trailblazer of the Year in an impressively short period of time.

GXBank successfully completed an operational readiness review. That in itself is no easy task. The bank was approved to commence operations from September 2023. To meet the regulatory challenges requires successful leverage of the latest and best in banking technology.

Moreover, GXBank is setting a high bar in terms of its ambitions. It aims to serve the unserved and underserved consumers, and micro and small medium enterprises. That means supporting customers’ needs through various channels including a bank app and 24/7 customer support via multiple platforms.

Pei Si Lai has used her over 25 years of extensive experience in consumer and commercial banking to bring together and lead a team already more than 200-strong, comprising more than 95% Malaysian employees from both the technology and finance sectors.

GXBank hit its first 100,000 new registered users inside a month, proving that there is an appetite in the country for a new digital competitor to the established brick-and-mortar lenders.

Awards special report

Next week we will be publishing our free Special Report which lists all winners and is an opportunity to review the best practices and strategies that have driven the thought-leading banks and the individuals to success.

Register your interest here for the RBI Asia Trailblazer Awards 2025: