UOB recognised as world's best bank for SMEs by British publication Euromoney

UOB operates in Singapore as well as in Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - UOB has earned credit for being a world-best in lending to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

The Singapore bank said on Monday (Oct 4) that it has been named the World's Best Bank for SMEs at the Euromoney Global Awards for Excellence 2021, "based on its deep regional connectivity, expertise and support of SMEs to enable post-pandemic recovery and growth".

Last February, it rolled out $3 billion in relief financing to companies impacted by Covid-19 and to date has lent money to more than 20,000 SMEs across the region.

UOB operates here as well as in Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines.

Its deputy chairman and chief executive Wee Ee Cheong said it is also helping its SME customers "transform their business digitally, seize cross-border opportunities and advance responsibly for long-term growth".

For example, the number of transactions made through PayNow Corporate among UOB's SME customers grew more than 50 times in the first quarter of 2021, compared with the same period in 2019.

SME clients in the region that took up UOB BizSmart, a suite of cloud-based solutions tailored to boost productivity, also reported revenue expansion of between 15 per cent and 30 per cent between April 2020 and March 2021, compared with those that did not.

Last year, UOB rolled out four frameworks to simplify sustainability for business. They set out the criteria that companies must meet to access sustainable banking products and reduce the need for SMEs to develop their own framework.

The bank's frameworks provide guidance on measuring environmental and social impact and help SMEs access sustainable financing more easily.

Offshore and marine company Kim Heng is one customer that obtained a green loan from UOB, enabling it to diversify its business into renewable energy projects such as wind farms in Taiwan and Vietnam.

The bank said it is able to tailor products to meet borrowers' needs by leveraging its data analytics-powered credit underwriting engine to gain deeper insights into the credit behaviour of small businesses.

By including additional information that is not traditionally used in the assessment process, the bank is able to more accurately determine the credit worthiness of its small business customers.

UOB, which is Singapore's third-largest bank by assets, said it has helped more than 3,500 companies expand their operations across Asia and facilitated some $270 billion of business flows in the region.

At the Euromoney awards, another Singapore bank, DBS, was named World's Best Bank and World's Best Digital Bank for 2021.

DBS last year facilitated government payouts of more than $31 billion digitally to support families and businesses.

It also launched several first-time initiatives that tap emerging technologies such as blockchain. These include the DBS Digital Exchange (DDEx), a blockchain-based platform for fund raising through asset tokenisation and secondary trading of digital payment tokens like Bitcoin and Ether.

Last Friday, DBS Vickers, the brokerage arm of DBS and a member of DDEx, was awarded a licence to offer digital payment token services. It will be able to directly support asset managers and companies in the trading of digital payment tokens through DDEx.

DBS chief executive Piyush Gupta has said that the bank's digital, blockchain and carbon initiatives stemmed from observing trends such as hyperdigitalisation, which the bank believes "will reshape the post-pandemic world".

The Euromoney awards are given by British publication Euromoney.

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