Government restrictions implemented at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic have encouraged more banking customers to be digital, leading to greater numbers going online than ever before. Although this trend was already prevalent pre-COVID-19, the pandemic has hastened its development. For banks such as UOB who are years into their digital transformation journey, the acceleration of digital adoption has enabled it to push the boundaries in customer-centric innovation and in turn engage a broader base of customers.
Developing progressive solutions for customers
One result of this digitalisation trend is the increasing focus by banks to use technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to improve and to personalise the banking experience based on customer’s transaction data.
According to Stephan Hocking, managing director, Group Technology and Operations, UOB, “The technology available today offers banks a cost-efficient way to gather real-time data to offer our customers personalised insights on which they can base financial decisions.”
Having launched a digital engagement engine in 2019 to deepen engagement and to drive long-term affinity with customers through data insights, UOB is now benefitting from its first-mover advantage. Combining advanced data analytics and AI capabilities with human expertise in areas such as behavioural science, the engine rapidly learns the unique preferences of each customer as they transact, enabling the Bank to create hyperpersonalised digital experiences for every customer.
On top of using data to deepen customer engagement, insights are also fed into other business areas such as marketing, where it supports segment-specific consumer campaigns. “A big focus for us over the last year has been finding ways to use real-time data for analytics and decisioning,” Hocking says.
“The Bank’s focus on engineering excellence also means that our technologists are given space to create innovative solutions that are in line with customer needs and trends.” UOB’s engineers do a lot of proof-of-concept work to experiment with new technologies, according to Hocking. “We take a very design- and architecture-led approach to building solutions and applications,” Hocking says. In innovating new solutions, we work closely with the business on designing customer journeys and capabilities. Hocking added, “in this we are guided by key principles such as security by design, such that solutions are built with customer protection in mind.”
As UOB continues to redefine the way in which it uses data, opportunities for tech talents to work on cutting-edge technology projects and progressive customer solutions have never been more plentiful.
Developing talents through collaboration
While UOB can draw on extensive in-house talent to develop new digital products and solutions, it also frequently collaborates with fintech companies. These partnerships enable the Bank - and its talents - to innovative and to experiment with leading technologies that can be used to drive performance and to design progressive solutions. “At UOB, we are working with our fintech partners to source new capabilities which complement our in-house technology and expertise,” Hocking says.
For example, the Bank has a joint venture with Pintech Technology Holdings called Avatec.AI that aims to help banks and finance companies such as UOB make more efficient and more accurate credit assessment through its proprietary machine learning solution. Hocking explains: “Avatec acts as an aggregator for data and also provides access to additional forms of data that we can use to facilitate and to enhance credit models and decisions.”
Such collaborations enable UOB’s technology teams to work on exciting and emerging technologies in pursuit of innovation. “These partners bring in new technologies and capabilities that are interesting and insightful for our architects, system analysts and engineers to work with them,” Hocking says. “The way we are building our own applications is also changing to enable us to integrate with the ecosystem of fintech partners. Overall, these partnerships lead to a new, cutting-edge technology stack from which our talents can learn and experience.”
Developing future-ready talents
As a leading ASEAN bank, UOB also has access to the region’s strong pool of technology talent. This is seen as a benefit worth nurturing through training and development. “At UOB, we believe in and are committed to growing our own talent through continual learning and tapping our networks to access talent,” Hocking says. “This is an area in which we are investing and we are growing.”
Indeed, UOB also encourages further development of the kinds of skills that can support agility in areas such as DevOps, for example. Employees are provided with relevant training courses through the Bank’s DevOps Academy to build their knowledge and skills in this area.
The Bank’s regional presence also means it is situated in and around countries with national regulators that are not only supportive of technology development, but actively promote technology innovation in the region. As a result, Hocking says, UOB has been able to enhance its technology offering in line with high-profile, regulator-led projects. “We build our applications using an API/microservices-first approach so that we can integrate with regulator-led initiatives such as the National Digital ID in Thailand or SingPass in Singapore,” he says.
This development approach - whether in relation to innovation through internal projects, or through collaboration with fintech partners or regulatory bodies - is a central focus for UOB and, according to Hocking, is one of the factors that has made the Bank an increasingly attractive place to work for technology talents.