An Interview with Dick Ho


FST Media: What technology or innovation will be a game changer in the financial services industry over the next 12 months?

Ho: An omni-channel approach, paired with an increasing breakthrough in mobile technology, will no doubt be a game changer for the financial services industry. Bank customers have become accustomed to visiting branch premises to fulfil their banking needs for decades. The rise of mobile technology has changed customer behavior dramatically, not only in terms of the functional aspects, but also in terms of using smartphones to fulfil their daily needs.

What is the implication of this for banks? Banks, unlike other retail organisations, still need a manned channel to fulfil complicated transactions and provide advice. In this way, a bank which can execute an omni-channel strategy well – bringing the e-channel and physical footprint together effectively – will gain the first mover advantage.   

FST Media: How are you leveraging big data and analytics to meet customer demand for personalised banking products?

Ho: Traditional analytics such as life stage segmentation, lifetime value projection, or predictive modelling are still the most popular analytic tools to uncover customer needs and associated solutions.  

However, the production lifecycle of these techniques is too long to beat customers’ expectations. Now, banks are keen to invest in event and trigger based marketing capabilities, which enable the fulfilment of customers’ needs almost at the same time as the trigger event associated.  

FST Media: What will banking look like in 2020?

Ho: Internet, smartphone and customer behaviour have opened up a very different landscape for financial services in recent years. Given the rapid development of big data technology, hardware capabilities and the breakthrough in mobile devices, I foresee banking in 2020 to be highly mobile, customised, marketable and fashionable.  

FST Media: What is the relationship between the IT department and marketing, and how can they can work efficiently together?

Ho: The IT and marketing departments are far away from each other along the supply chain. They possess very different expertise and very different mindsets. A great collaboration between the two is a dream for any business owners.  

To set the right scene for both sides to excel is far more important; we should not force IT to understand marketing and vice versa. We need to direct their focus and energy into understanding the business agenda, purpose and financial benefits. Most importantly, they should understand their roles and contributions to the business. The key is business owners and their ability to bring both expertise to work together seamlessly to achieve the business goal.  

I have seen many successful business initiatives which always start well with a cohesive taskforce including not only IT and marketing but all necessary building blocks. Like a football team, once the manager understands their strengths and places them correctly, they will play well.

FST Media: What is proving to be your most effective customer acquisition channel and why?

Ho: In the next five years, physical bank branches will still be our most effective customer acquisition channel. Customer research continues to suggest convenience and having a branch near the office or home are the key priorities in customer bank choices. My own interpretation of the findings is that customers are invited to visit the branch more often to fulfil their needs. The fulfilment of regulatory requirements may have been dampened the transformation of banking services from physical footprint to full digitalization.  

Banks actively digitalise the traditional banking services and experiment with e-Channels for customer acquisition, however current traction is yet to tell us whether this will be a trend moving forward. 

FST Media: How do you encourage a culture of innovation in your team?

Ho: My favourite Italian chef always says the way to to make an Italian dish at Michelin quality is to start with quality ingredients first. I would like to build a team with diverse experiences and personalities, where the experienced senior management would be able to give mentorship to new blood, and the younger generation is always ready to go beyond the status quo. Altogether, they could sustain a performing work culture featuring a high degree of creativity. In addition to this, I like to conduct brainstorming sessions with a good mix of people. I am always amazed with the creativity and outcome of these sessions. 

FST Media: How significant is the role of technology in your day-to-day life?

Ho: I cannot live without technology. A little mobile device helps monitor my physical and financial health, acts as a private secretary to manage my trips and restaurant bookings, a private teacher to show me the results of my search query, a great toy to entertain my children, and has many other useful applications. 

This leaves banks with a billion dollar question – how can they better connect with customers through the mobile device?  

FST Media: Every leader has a legacy they wish to be remembered for, what is yours?

Ho: I want to be remembered for being a real friend who cares about his staff; a leader who always walks the talk and backs his team. I would like to be a mentor who shares his own life experiences with only one purpose: to help the younger generation achieve what they deserve.