An Interview with Gilbert Chuah


FST Media: What are your priorities for the next 12 to 18 months?

Chuah: At UOB, the customer is always at the centre of what we do, and we are looking into providing them more useful and relevant functionality, as well as superior customer experience.

In the short term, we are looking to enhance our ticketing application. Today it is only able to enable our customers to buy tickets, but moving forward we will be extending this ticketing function to events, including sporting events, concerts, drama and musicals.

In the longer term, we are looking at revamping the entire online customer experience. We want to know who our customers are when they visit our website; we want to be able to show them personalised messages, something that is relevant to them. At the same time, we will also be looking at the entire customer experience, so regardless of which channel they are using, we want to provide a consistent experience.

On the regional front, we are also in the midst of deploying the group internet banking platform as well as the mobile banking platform to regional countries, including overseas branches in China, followed by Malaysia, and Indonesia.

FST Media: How has the creation of an integrated regional operating and technology platform delivered value to the business, and how will you measure its success?

Chuah: We believe in the approach of build it one time, and deploy it many times, and as we continue to build upon the functionalities within our group function, our group platform, we will also be deploying to regional countries as well.

From our experience with China and Thailand, we are seeing that by taking this approach, we are able to reduce our cost by two thirds, and also take half the deployment time.

FST Media: How are mobile services assisting the bank in improving both the customer and banking experience?

Chuah: Research has shown that smartphone penetration in Singapore is increasing exponentially. Today, four out of five Singaporeans own a smartphone, and for tablets, it is also the same. We will soon see the sale of tablets exceeding that of PCs, and within the mobile banking transactions we are also seeing more and more people using this channel. At UOB, more than one million transactions are performed through this channel monthly. This is definitely a channel that we want to continue to build, however we are also seeing that the customer is moving towards a multi-channel usage. This means they are not using mobile or the branch alone, but they are using multiple channels, they use their mobile, they use their ATM, and they also use the branch. We want to look at the entire multi-channel experience instead of concentrating on just mobile. 

FST Media: What technology or innovation is proving to be the single biggest game changer for banking?

Chuah: We do not think that there is going to be a single technology that is going to be a game changer, but looking at technology trends, we believe that digital intelligence can be a good differentiator if you deploy it the right way.

Digital analytics has actually moved from simple web analytics to what we call digital analytics, where we encompass date coming from the social media to mobile to internet, and this will give marketers a good opportunity to integrate this data and to transform it into fantastic customer interactions.

FST Media: What role will data analytics play in improving the customer experience in the future?

Chuah: Data and analytics play a very important role, from the customer side, the customer expects us to know them and be able to anticipate their needs. They also expect us to be able to tailor a solution unique to them. On the bank’s side, there is a need for us to make sure that we are able to collect information, analyse this information, and use this analytics to build compelling one-to-one dialogue with our customers.

FST Media: UOB Mobile continues to be the only application in Singapore to offer cardless cash withdrawals, what plans do you have to further develop mobile banking channels?

Chuah: we have seen great success in UOB mobile, and especially UOB Mobile Cash, which has won a few awards. We have made some enhancements on our mobile cash, so namely, when the recipient receives the mobile cash, instead of just going to the ATM to get cash without an ATM card, now the recipient can go to the ATM and choose for the mobile cash to be topped-up into their pre-paid card. At the same time we are making another enhancement where the recipient, without having to go to a physical location can visit our website and choose an account for the mobile cash to go into. These are the various ways for us to strengthen the mobile cash proposition.

We will be looking into improving the overall customer experience for both UOB Mobile as well as UOB Mobile Cash.

FST Media: What threat do disruptors like Google and Apple pose to banking, and how will you address this?

Chuah: The business of banking has been, and will continue to be anchored on trust and relationships. UOB’s local knowledge, Asian heritage, and long lasting relationship with our customers will always have the competitive advantage over non-traditional competitors.

We are also embracing technology to develop a unique and personalised experience for our customer using their mobile and internet banking.

It is extremely important for us to continue to strengthen our internet banking and mobile proposition by improving the customer experience as well as innovating our products to cater to the internet savvy customers of the future.

FST Media: What advice would you give emerging technology chiefs?

Chuah: Once in a while you need to move backwards to view things in a more holistic manner, so it is always important for us to know what is happening in Singapore, and what is happening outside Singapore and all the latest technology, and more importantly to be able to apply this technology to improve the lives of our banking customers.

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

Chuah: While I am managing a channels business, it is also a people’s business. So what I would like to do is to groom a new generation of digital practitioners and I would want them to be able to embrace digital and at the same time harness the power of social media and to cater to the needs of our increasingly sophisticated customers.

This way it will not only benefit UOB, but would also benefit the industry as a whole.