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Savings and Retail Banks in the Digital Age: Developing a Winning Strategy

Savings and Retail Banks in the Digital Age: Developing a Winning Strategy


​​​​​​​The 2018 WSBI Asia Regional Group Meeting gathered more than 40 participants from the WSBI Asian, African and EU membership, the most innovative banks of the Asia region beyond the WSBI membership and some external experts in Hong Kong on 17-18 April. The regional meeting was followed by an Innovation Workshop and a study visit to Bank of East Asia.

The first day of the event focused on WSBI institutional agenda and banking landscape in the region. WSBI members had the chance to detail how they are riding the digital wave to become even closer to their customers and discussed success factors to transform into the Bank of Future. Discussions also covered differentiation strategies for locally focused banks.

Redefining banks in the digital age

Participants agreed on saying that technology is key in our modernised and industrialised world. Yet, “technology cannot be replaced by human behaviour", said Chandran Nair, Founder and CEO, Global Institute for tomorrow. He suggested that financial institutions must think of the “social value of banking" to redefine themselves in a digital age.

“Nowadays, change is accelerating and more complex", said Jeff Hackeson, Managing Director of Change Enablement. Another step forward could also be a shift in the role of branches, “from providing financial products and services to providing advisory services to customers", suggested Santhan Yoosiri, Executive vice-president of Human Resources Development Department at​ the Government Savings Bank of Thailand.

Regarding how SBI positions itself against other players/competitors, Mr Gupta said that the biggest disruption is visible in the payment space. The Indian Government has devised a Unified Payments Interface (UPI) System, which can be used by any players including FinTech newcomers. Collaboration is a vital way forward for banks, in that regard SBI has a platform for collaborating with big FinTech players.

E-KYC and digital signature were named as key areas where Financial Technology (FinTech) can bring much needed solutions for onboarding, financial inclusion and customer engagement yet where regulators also need to be open towards and take an enabling position.

Asia Regional group meeting innovation workshop hong kong 5.jpeg How to succeed in digital transformation

Hong Kong is recognized as one of the top global financial centers and has an enabling environment to nourish Financial Technology– the reason why WSBI decided to organise its latest innovation workshop there. Hong Kong's open markets, transparent and internationally-recognised regulatory system, and a pool of highly-trained and tri-lingual professionals provide are an interesting base for building an innovation ecosystem. Moreover the FinTech environment is really interesting to observe as it is highly encouraged by governmental entities; lastly by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) which has set out seven initiatives in effort to bolster FinTech, which ought to create a “smart banking" system in Hong Kong. Noteworthy, amongst these initiatives is the plan to set up a policy to facilitate the development and wider adoption of application process interfaces (APIs) by the banking sector.

The workshop enabled insights into innovation projects and best practices but also fostered roundtable exchanges on elements needed how to enable an innovation ecosystem and regulatory FinTech framework; e-KYC and onboarding, optimising the channel mix; lending and credit decisioning technology; collaboration and APIs.

“Trust is what distinguished banks from other FinTech giants, emphasised Saket Saith, Head of External APIs at DBS Bank. It is an element that banks can never comprise on".  Awards winner in the fields of digital financial services, innovation and customer service DBS recently launched the largest banking API Platform with 155 APIs in more than 20 categories, and has collaborated with over 50 companies including large household names such as AIG, McDonalds, MSIG, and PropertyGuru.​

Asia Regional group meeting innovation workshop hong kong 7.jpeg

Attracting users with easy to use and aways-on services such as  mobile apps and social networks

From an Indian perspective, Praveen Gupta, Managing Director Retail & Digital Banking at State Bank of India, presented YONO App, launched in November 2017. YONO – You Only Need One – is designed to meet lifestyle needs across a wide range of categories. This is an integrated banking platform that enable users to access a variety of financial and other services such as online shopping, paying medical bills, ordering a taxi. In order to do so, SBI has partnered with over 60 e-commerce players such as Amazon, Uber and Airbnb.

CaixaBank also aims at atracting the youth segments with specific services and products. Àngels Valls, Commercial Director of ImaginBank for Caixa Bank Digital Business, told the audience about Spain's first mobile-only bank. ImaginBank provides banking services exclusively through mobile apps and social networks with a 100% online onboarding process. Social media have also been harnessed to provide instant customer care services such as the use of Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp.

Thomas DeLuca, CEO of AMP Creditech, explained that in some Asian countries, banks are facing a number of seemingly conflicting goals when seeking to improve the efficiency, between offering an online lending experience and the need to service analogue clients. Whether winner or loser in the digital age depends on how banks nourish technology. Yet, according to the 'Global Payments Innovation Jury 2017' report, Asia is top when it comes to digitally driven banking breakthroughs. Asia has attracted more funds in FinTech investments than in North America and Europe, partly driven by the rapidly expanding middle class and 'digital natives' who have enthusiasm to tap into the latest technology.

The winning strategy

To conclude, there is no question on the importance of digitisation, the question is how to best apply it and cater to new needs and expectations. Traditional banks should blend digitization and their traditional unique identity. 

Three elements to tackle in a digital transformation strategy were mentioned: be digital at the core; resolve legacy issues; embed the bank in the customer's journey – thinking of what customers would like to achieve. The business model of new way banking thus relies on 3 wins: win for customers, win for banks, and win for ground partners.

Regulatory framework becomes important while talking about digital onboarding. Joseph Delhaye, Head Legal and Senior Vice- President at BCEE Luxembourg aimed at giving European and international insights to create a “Europe-Asia" bridge. He detailed the ESA's opinion on the use of innovative solutions by banks in the CDD process and the quest for comprehensive action regarding GDPR (data protection) and PSD2 (open banking) issues in connection with digital banking.

Study visit @ BEA Hong Kong April 2018 (2).jpeg

The Bank of East Asia, an outstanding example for innovation

Finally, the Hong Kong event was concluded by a remarkable visit to the Bank of East Asia Centre, exceptionally equipped for customers' information, onboarding, advisory services. BEA is known as one of the most innovative banks in Hong Kong. The Bank of East Asia truly leads a major branch transformation campaign, nurturing​ culture of innovation and strive to achieve an ever-better customer experience.​

>> More about the event​
>> Story: Traditional, locally focused banks keep pace with ‘digital wave’


Innovation; Innovation Hub; Digitalisation