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Singapore's UOB to launch digital bank in Thailand

Lender targets Southeast Asian millennials with mobile-only services

UOB, the smallest of Singapore's three banking groups, first announced plans for a digital bank in August last year to cater to the region's growing number of "mobile first".   © Reuters

SINGAPORE (Nikkei Markets) -- Singapore's United Overseas Bank will launch its first ever mobile-only digital bank next week in Thailand, joining a swath of regional players that are coming out with offerings aimed at young and digitally savvy consumers in Southeast Asia.

Called TMRW, UOB's offering will initially comprise a transaction account, a savings account and a credit card. The Singapore bank hopes to differentiate TMRW from rivals through better use of data, such as by alerting customers when salaries are not credited by the usual date or when a large payment is due.

Customers, in turn, can indicate the alerts and features that they find useful, helping TMRW personalize its services.

UOB chose Thailand as a launch pad as digital services in the country were relatively well developed while people spent a lot of time on their phones, said Dennis Khoo, head of group retail digital, at a launch event.

The bank plans to launch TMRW in a second Southeast Asian country by year end and aims to build a customer base of 3-5 million in the next five years.

Khoo added that UOB is investing in a standalone digital bank targeted at millennials because their habits and preferences differed significantly from earlier generations.

Within 10-15 years, millennials will "become the mainstream and most valued customers for any retail bank. If you don't in this period understand them better and evolve with them, how are you going to serve the generation of tomorrow in banking," he said.

UOB, the smallest of Singapore's three banking groups, first announced plans for a digital bank in August last year to cater to the region's growing number of "mobile first" and "mobile only" customers. Besides Singapore and Thailand, UOB is also present in China, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam.

The bank's move to set up TMRW may eventually put it in direct competition with larger local rival DBS Group Holdings, which launched a mobile-only bank in India back in 2016 and now has a digital bank in Indonesia as well.

Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp, Singapore's number two lender, has ruled out setting up a separate digital bank, saying it preferred to incorporate digital technologies into its existing banking operations.

In Thailand, UOB will compete with several Thai banks that have launched or are about to launch digital banks, including TMB Bank and Kasikornbank.

--Kevin Lim

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