UOB says physical presence will help it compete in digital age

The newly opened UOB Orchard Privilege Banking Centre. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
The facility, opened around a month ago, has a wellness centre with 3D body scanning and skin analysis equipment. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
UOB is revamping its physical branches to meet an omnichannel strategy. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - As digital banks make a grab for its customers, UOB says it will focus on transforming its physical engagement to give it a competitive edge in the region.

"You use data, you use technology, and (there's also) the human expertise. And when that all comes in together, I think that's when you can serve a customer more holistically," said Ms Jacquelyn Tan, head of group personal financial services at UOB.

Ms Tan was speaking after the launch of the bank's regional brand campaign on Wednesday, at the new UOB Privilege Banking Centre in Orchard.

The facility, opened around a month ago, has a wellness centre with 3D body scanning and skin analysis equipment - part of an initiative to offer services that customers want at physical locations.

In an opening address, UOB chief executive Wee Ee Cheong said the bank is aiming to be the most preferred bank for both consumers and businesses across its key markets by 2035.

Mr Wee said he believes in the potential of the Asean region with its "favourable demographics and resilient fundamentals", adding that UOB plans to be a "truly regional bank that helps our customers achieve their aspirations".

UOB is therefore investing in both its infrastructure and digital platforms.

It is revamping its physical branches - including those in Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia - to meet an omnichannel strategy, which involves offloading lower-value transactions to digital channels and offering higher-value services such as wealth advisory through its physical networks.

"We hear from our customers that with the pivot and adoption to digital, it's not only about serving the needs digitally, but the seamless on-to-offline engagement in our physical channel," said Ms Tan.

She added, however, that the bank is well positioned to deal with digital competition as it has been investing in digital capabilities throughout.

"Those that will find (digital banks) a threat will be those that probably haven't invested in digital transformation for some time," said Ms Tan.

Among UOB's digital capabilities is an all-in-one app that uses artificial intelligence to suggest rewards and insights based on customers' spending patterns. The app caters to users across UOB's customer segments, including mass, wealth and privilege banking.

The personalisation capabilities of the app fit into UOB's new brand strategy. UOB said it is refreshing its brand "not just (as) a rebranding exercise or a marketing campaign", but also as a signal for its strategic focus and investment in the region.

As part of its new brand strategy, the bank highlighted three key areas of focus: personalisation, connectivity and sustainability.

Ms Tan also expects to progressively deploy features in its mobile app - including its investing function and rewards section - across the region in the next six months to a year. THE BUSINESS TIMES

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