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Malaysia's CIMB sets up fintech unit

Former head at DBS Bank to spearhead development of digital banking solutions

Top executives from CIMB and Alibaba pose in Kuala Lumpur last month after sealing a deal to introduce mobile payment.

KUALA LUMPUR -- Malaysia's CIMB Group Holdings has created a standalone unit to develop innovative banking solutions using financial technology.

The group said the unit, CIMB Fintech, will be a hub to experiment and realize digital ambitions as it strengthens its foothold as a regional lender.

"Its operating model will be agile, dynamic and nimble, in order to provoke, incubate and execute ideas that will either redefine or enhance CIMB's products and services," Zafrul Aziz, the group's chief executive, said in a press release on Monday.

CIMB has appointed Olivier Crespin to head the unit starting in June, subject to regulatory approvals.

The French national was until recently the head of digital banking at DBS Bank in Singapore. CIMB said he has more than 28 years of experience at global and Southeast Asian-based organizations.

Malaysia recently beefed up its digital initiatives by tying up with China's Alibaba Group Holding to set up a logistics hub at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Called the Digital Free Trade Zone, the virtual and physical e-commerce center will be supported by the Chinese online giant's trading platform to link businesses and consumers.

Ant Financial Services, a unit of Alibaba, also entered into agreements with CIMB and Malayan Banking, or Maybank, to develop Alipay mobile payment services in Malaysia. Both lenders will serve as settlement banks to facilitate Alipay.

Fintech is relatively new in Malaysia, with a handful of startups in equity crowdfunding.

Maybank launched the MaybankFintech program in 2015 to fund tech startups as well as to develop digital banking platforms. Last year, it started a contactless mobile payment service, offering the first digital wallet in the country in collaboration with Samsung Group. Maybank also set up Rapid Digital Delivery to enhance banking technologies, including Push Notification Analytics, digital signature and facial recognition.

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