An interview with Michael Foong



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

Foong: Maybank has a clear strategy of where we need to be by 2015 to become a leading regional financial services provider. My immediate priorities are to help us achieve that goal, which includes achieving customer-centricity and enabling a seamless customer experience across all touchpoints. Other priorities include raising productivity and driving higher efficiency across all our operating entities, and to enable the different units to harvest synergies and benefits from regional projects and investments.

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 industry?

Foong: A lot has been said about big data and analytics, but I have yet to see anyone in the financial services industry really accomplish the promised success. Done right, analytics has the potential to change the retail banking game, but we need to be able to connect the dots between the plethora of software solutions on offer with the kinds of business problems that are faced by financial services players in order to come up with defensible business cases that yield clear benefits.

FST Media: How has Maybank’s peer-to-peer (P2P) mobile transfer service delivered value and how will you measure success?

Foong: Both our new services, Maybank ‘Mobile Money’ and ‘Cardless Withdrawals’ have seen good take up. Feedback from customers has been very positive, and we are also seeing offshoots. We are entering an evolving age of innovation, and with that, we must review what we measure as success. Of course, returns on investment must be quantifiable, but it cannot be purely financial anymore. Learning, leadership and building of skills are equally important. Just as important is mind-share and peer-to-peer initiatives that play an important role.

FST Media: What are Maybank’s plans to capture the unbanked market?

Foong: The unbanked market segment is an area that we believe holds strong potential in particular countries and regions. We will be studying the characteristics of this segment by geography and will then make investment decisions on how to approach these segments in a way that generates a win-win situation. This will differ country to country, as we do not see a cookie-cutter approach being of value in addressing this particular segment.

FST Media: How do you see the rising roles of chief digital and marketing officers impacting the traditional function of senior technology executives? 

Foong: I do not think any one particular role can drive the bank to where it needs to be. What is more important is how all our leaders work together to achieve a common goal under a very strong, clear vision and a united team. The functions played by marketing leads will be more demand-oriented and will increasingly derive relevance from the bottom-up customer insights, and through this, will help drive new investments in technology. However, it will not replace the roles of senior technology executives as these new investments still need to be delivered into actual products, services or capabilities.

FST Media: If you weren’t working in financial services, what would you be doing?

Foong: I would be in the technology arena, in mobile technology enabling new services for retail customers. That is the most exciting industry sector to be in today, and will continue to be interesting for the next decade.

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

Foong: I hope to be remembered as the leader that helped shape and then drive the transformation program for Maybank Group. It has been my passion and commitment over the past six years. I hope that the capabilities and achievements we have generated will be sustainable so that, 10 years from now, I can look back and enjoy knowing that I was part of the pioneer group that helped bring Maybank to the next level of competitiveness and capability.

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.