An Interview with Gilbert Chuah


FST Media: Which emerging trend or innovation is currently flying under the radar that you feel is destined to make a significant impact on the financial services sector?

Chuah: While we feel there is no single technology that is a game changer for financial services, we believe the right use and deployment of digital intelligence will be an important differentiator for banks.

Customers today expect their bank to know and anticipate their financial needs and involve them actively in developing tailored solutions that meet their individual needs. Banks must have the capability to collect and analyse data from multiple channels to provide relevant financial solutions.

At UOB, we are continually working to ensure our internet and mobile banking channels can offer our customers financial products and services that help them achieve their financial goals and needs. One example is where we provide travel insurance products during peak holiday periods to customers who we know are frequent travellers.

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

Chuah: Having a digital channel is no longer a differentiator and competitive advantage comes from providing a digital experience that is highly relevant to the customer and is easy to use. United Overseas Bank’s (UOB) key priority is to deliver a superior customer experience across our digital channels throughout the region. We have already started on this journey by continually enhancing the UOB ‘Personal Internet Banking’ website and the ‘UOB Mobile’ app to provide our customers with convenient ways to manage their financial portfolios.

FST Media: How are the bank’s SMS-based ‘UOB Mobile’ cardless transactions adding value to the business, and how will you measure future success?

Chuah: We see the UOB mobile app and its features as an important part in making banking more convenient for our customers. The app puts a branch in the hand of our customers to help manage their finances.

The UOB ‘Mobile Cash’ feature is an industry first which provides customers with the ability to make cash withdrawals and transfer funds to others with just an instant text message and a one-time password at more than 600 ATMs in Singapore.

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

Chuah: We have a culture of innovation which we build by sharing and learning from colleagues and industry experts from across the region. We also frequently engage with industry experts who share their views on the latest technology and applications.

Across the bank, we also have innovation programs where all employees are encouraged to share ideas that are explored and deployed if they are found feasible.

FST Media: What information sources do you consider invaluable for your job, and why?

Chuah: Besides studying research papers by industry experts and consultants, speaking to and learning from experts in the industry is a good way to continually spark innovation and ideas. I frequently participate in industry seminars and also try to be involved in roundtables and panel discussions.

FST Media: What do you consider to be the greatest achievement of your career to date?

Chuah: The launch of ‘UOB Mobile,’ Singapore’s first mobile banking app to enable cardless cash withdrawals, was an incredible achievement for the bank and for me personally. Our customers were the first in the market to have access to physical cash with just an instant text message and a one-time password on top of being able to manage their finances on-the-go. Also, the increasing use of ‘Personal Internet Banking’ by UOB customers is a good reflection of the convenience and relevance of our internet banking channel as customer habits change.

FST Media: How is UOB’s back-end ‘integrated regional operating and technology platform’ delivering value to the business, and how will you measure consistency and efficiency across all channels?

Chuah: For our digital channels, we believe in building our assets once and deploying it across the region. As we continue to develop and enhance our digital banking channels, we are also rolling out these enhancements to our customers across the region. This approach has seen significant savings in cost and time taken for deployment outside of Singapore. It also means our customers around the region can enjoy a more seamless intra-regional banking experience.

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

Chuah: Helping to groom a new generation of digital banking professionals who are passionate and not afraid to utilise digital technology to meet the increasingly sophisticated needs of our customers is a very important priority to me. This will not only make a difference at UOB but also drive the industry to greater heights.

This interview first appeared in FST Media’s annual magazine The Who’s Who of Financial Services Asia Pacific, which launched at the Technology & Innovation – the Future of Banking & Financial Services conference in Melbourne on 4th June, 2014.