UOB to invest $500 million to boost digital bank presence in Singapore, Asean

UOB expects to launch more digital-only wealth products to increase revenue. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

SINGAPORE - UOB will invest up to $500 million over the next five years to scale up its digital offerings in Singapore and the rest of Asean, the bank announced on Tuesday (Sept 28).

It also aims to double the retail customers it serves digitally to more than seven million customers.

This comes as digital banking adoption made a five- to seven-year leap in advancement in just the past year alone, said Mr Kevin Lam, head of group digital banking at UOB.

"This has driven us to launch our digital-first strategy much earlier than expected," he said.

Part of UOB's investment will involve combining Tmrw, UOB's digital bank in Thailand and Indonesia, with its Singapore mobile app, UOB Mighty, to form a new and improved app called UOB Tmrw.

This will be launched in Singapore by the fourth quarter of this year, said Mr Lam, who also heads Tmrw.

Users will benefit from more relevant rewards and customer loyalty programmes personalised based on their data and banking habits, as the new app leverages Tmrw's customer engagement technology.

The UOB Tmrw app will also unify UOB's investment products onto its platform, in a move to democratise wealth management for the mass market, Mr Lam said.

Insights generated for each customer will help them understand how they are positioned compared to the median and what they can do to improve their financial status and lifestyle, he said.

He added that one of the aims of the UOB Tmrw app is to encourage more users to transition to digital banking.

Noting the acceleration in the pace of digital banking adoption in Singapore that began last year, he said: "Digital banking has become mainstream and is no longer just a preference for younger people."

Last year, adoption of digital payment channels such as PayNow and QR code increased by over 200 per cent, while physical cash deposits and withdrawals decreased by more than 30 per cent, according to UOB.

"The propensity to bank online has increased threefold to almost two thirds among those aged 60 and above", Mr Lam said.

As part of its roll-out of UOB Tmrw, UOB on Tuesday launched a pilot version of the new app to all its Singapore-based employees, allowing them to have access to Tmrw's digital bank capabilities.

Once the pilot is completed successfully, Singapore-based UOB Mighty customers will be able to transition to UOB Tmrw by the end of the year.

Tmrw was first launched in 2019 under a separate division in UOB. The digital bank is backed by an AI-driven digital engagement engine that uses financial technology to categorise and analyse large volumes of transaction data in real time. It is supported by experts from areas including technology, behavioural science, data science and banking in Thailand and Indonesia.

That has enabled Tmrw to predict and offer insights and financial solutions that are relevant to customers based on their banking preferences. According to UOB, Trmw was the first digital bank in the region to develop a new business model focused on engaging customers through data insights.

Since 2019, it has invested $200 million to develop its digital banking capabilities in Thailand and Indonesia.

The bank plans to unify its digital banking platforms in other markets, including Malaysia and Vietnam, Mr Lam said.

UOB also expects to launch more digital-only wealth products to increase revenue and lower costs by using chatbots instead of humans to serve customers.

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