In Focus

No ‘one-size-fits-all' for mobile bank TMRW

UOB’s mobile-only bank makes use of personalization to attract Thailand, Indonesia’s tech-savvy generation.

The ASEAN region boasts of approximately 96% mobile phone penetration rate with a density of 967 per 1,000 regional residents, and 66% of which are smartphone use, according to a paper published by PwC. Separately, 60% of the ASEAN population are under 35 years old and are highly-connected, mobile-first consumers who do most things on smartphones.

With these in mind, Singapore financial giant UOB designed its first fully digital bank TMRW to serve the region’s digital generation. Unlike other banking apps, TMRW’s interface operates similar to a “feed” like Instagram or Facebook.

The app makes use of It uses AI-technology, machine learning, and data analytics in order to better anticipate what their customers want and need. As Kevin Lam, head of TMRW Digital Group, explains, “the more a customer interacts with TMRW, the better TMRW understands the customer.”

“We did not build a one-size-fits-all digital bank. Instead, we designed TMRW to be nimble to ensure we address local requirements and are sensitive to the nuances in languages and cultures in each market, whilst ensuring that the core TMRW experience of offering simple, transparent and engaging experiences remains the same,” Lam added.

Already, just a year after it launched, TMRW achieved the third highest net promoter score (NPS) among all banks in Thailand as at April 2020 and is ranked number one in terms of NPS for credit cards.

Asian Banking & Finance spoke with Lam to learn more about the mobile-only bank TMRW.

How does being a mobile-only bank make you different from other digital banks in the region?
We have designed a completely new business model for TMRW, ATGIE—which stands for Acquire, Transact, Generate data, Insights, and Engage—which focuses on customer engagement as the primary goal.

Our engagement-focused business model enables us to scale based on a customer base of loyal advocates. By acquiring and retaining customers who are highly engaged with the TMRW banking experience, they then become advocates for TMRW. In turn, these advocates will be more likely to recommend TMRW to their friends and family.

In the long run, our digital bank business model lowers the cost of acquisition and enables us to scale in Thailand and Indonesia as well as regionally as we expand to other ASEAN markets.

Can you expand more, in simplest terms, on your data-driven model? How does this feature help personalise each customer's experience with TMRW?
We want to deepen our engagement with our customers through a personalised banking experience, so we ivested in financial technology (fintech) solutions in the areas of AI, machine learning and data analytics to offer them a customised experience based on their wants and needs.

For example, our partnership with Meniga makes it easier for customers to recognise and to track their expenditure. Our investment in and partnership with FINTECH firm Personetics powers TMRW’s insight engine which transforms transaction data into meaningful insights that anticipate our customers’ needs such as reminders to make bill payments or suggestions to tap personal financial management tools. In Indonesia, TMRW also taps an AI-driven credit assessment engine provided by to assess the credit worthiness of customers by utilising alternative data and machine learning.

We are also the first bank in Southeast Asia to set up an Engagement Lab (eLab). This unit uses the latest tech and behavioural insights to deepen customer engagement. It adopts a test and learn approach to ensure every digital conversation with a customer is relevant, familiar and engaging to them is easy to understand.

We have already set up eLabs in Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia, and we will establish other eLabs across ASEAN countries.

Tell us more about your products and services. Who is your target customer base? What services does TMRW Bank offer?
As millennials have less complex financial needs at their current stage in life, we started by offering TMRW customers a savings account and credit card bundle. By deepening engagement with our customers through an instinctive digital experience, we hope that they will want us to grow with them through their life stages.

Take opening a bank account in Thailand as an example. TMRW redesigned the account opening process for our Thai customers so that they need not visit a physical branch. Instead, customers authenticate at one of the 350 digital kiosks that are located in high foot-traffic areas across Greater Bangkok. By tapping Thailand’s National ID database and its Sandbox Banking Initiative, TMRW became the first bank to offer customers both fingerprint matching and facial recognition capabilities for a speedier and safer account opening experience.

In Indonesia, we adopted a video call onboarding model in adhering to the different local regulatory requirements. As some of our customers faced connectivity and bandwidth issues faced, we created a text-and-video model that minimise dropped calls and data usage.

With these models in place, our customers can open a TMRW without having to visit a physical branch to do so. With COVID-19 restrictions in place, this model is especially helpful to customers as they stayed home and stayed safe.

Our customer-centric approach also focuses on enabling our customers to manage their finances wisely. For example, we take away the hassle of our customers having to keep track of their spending, savings and bill payments, and is the first bank in Thailand to provide each individual customer with insights specific to their transaction behaviour.

Recently, we also launched a real-time expense tracking feature in which participants can test and provide feedback to refine new TMRW features before they are launched to the larger customer base.

Through research, we found that Thailand’s digital generation also appreciates relevant guidance to help them keep track of and manage their finances better, and they respond better to prompts that are fun and do not make them feel guilty. With that in mind, we designed a money management game to help TMRW customers in Thailand meet their savings goals in fun-sized, achievable steps. The game encourages customers to level up as they save more money.

The first question is always: “What is the customer’s need or pain point that needs solving?” If the current design does not answer that question, we go back to the drawing board.

If possible, can you share with us your future projects and plans you have in store in the coming year? If not, can you at least give us a sneak peek of TMRW Bank's plans?
TMRW launched in Thailand last year and, most recently, Indonesia. By testing with and learning from our Thai customers what features work and what does not, we are able to enhance the app to meet the highest benchmarks of digital service and experience and to incorporate learnings from Thailand for our second market, Indonesia. We are also expanding our ecosystem of partners in areas that are relevant to our customers’ lifestyle priorities such as dining, shopping, lifestyle and entertainment.

Can you give us an estimate of when you believe you will start making a profit, if you haven't already?
Our ambition is to achieve a steady-state NPS of above 60 and to operate at a steady-state cost-to-income ratio of 35% in the next four years.

Has the pandemic affected your operations, or led TMRW to reangle its strategies and goals? If so, how?
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digital adoption among consumers and there are many banks that have fast tracked their digital transformation efforts in order to serve customers better during this time. As a mobile-only bank, we have the digital capabilities to serve well the needs of our customers during this period. 

With more customers staying home, we are seeing an increase in online spend. For example, online retail spending among TMRW customers in Thailand doubled in June 2020 as compared with December 2019. We are also seeing an increase in customers who choose to save during these uncertain times. In June 2020, deposits from our TMRW customers in Thailand grew by five times as compared with a year ago.

In February you announced plans to expand to Indonesia. Amongst Southeast Asian markets what led to your decision to expand in Indonesia first?
We officially launched TMRW in Indonesia within 16 months of launching in Thailand. We were able to launch in two diverse ASEAN markets so quickly as TMRW is purposefully built on UOB’s standardised regional information technology (IT) infrastructure. 

We have achieved several milestones in serving our TMRW customers in Thailand since launch and have incorporated learnings from Thailand to enhance the banking experience for our customers in Indonesia.

As a mobile-only bank equipped with technological capabilities in the areas of AI, machine learning and data analytics, we are able to serve well the growing digitally savvy population in Indonesia by providing them with a seamless, transparent and personalised banking experience that suits their needs.


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