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Going digital pays off for local banks

Efforts to go digital are slowly but surely paying off for the three local banks, given their positive first-quarter results.

Not only has digitisation opened up more avenues for the financial institutions to capture customers, it is improving efficiency and cost managing.

OCBC Bank chief executive Samuel Tsien said on Tuesday that going digital has helped as it takes care of all the detailed and repetitive work that would otherwise be handled by humans.

He also stressed the importance of using technology to "expand our channels to reach our customers and for them to reach us".

The results are telling.

Mr Tsien noted that last year, 12 per cent of its popular 360 account was opened online, and half of unit trust sales done through its electronic channel.

For remittances, which he deemed "even more impressive", 70 per cent is done online, significantly reducing costs as digital does away with paper or over-the-counter methods.

United Overseas Bank invested nearly $700 million in information technology from 2013 to last year, including investments in payments and data initiatives, as well as to address regulatory changes.

It noted a 26 per cent increase in online sales applications in the first quarter compared with the same period last year, and the number of deposit accounts opened online soared 80 per cent.

DBS Bank chief executive Piyush Gupta declared several opportunities in going digital, such as greater distribution and reach, existing customers doing more business with the lender, and new products like its DBS Remit, which "digitally transfers money across 10 corridors in Asia now in three seconds".

The digital transformation of platforms and processes translates to a better customer experience and possibly more loyal consumers, giving a boost to the wealth management business, a major growth driver for local banks today.

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