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Thailand's mobile-only bank challenges millennials to save

UOB's built-in game and chat support tailored to a digital generation

TMRW allows users to build out a digital world with every deposit. (Photo courtesy of United Overseas Bank)

BANGKOK -- A digital bank accessible only by smartphone has opened in Thailand.

The service offered by Singapore's United Overseas Bank allows users to open accounts and conduct banking activities without ever setting foot in a branch, and aims to capture the hearts of tech-savvy Thai millennials.

Dubbed TMRW, the bank and its associated app launched in early March. UOB asys this is the first of its kind in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, althought such services already exist in the U.K. 

One of the unique features of TMRW -- pronounced "tomorrow" -- is a city-building game built into the app. Every deposit users make allows them to expand their virtual worlds.

"This was our highest-rated feature in a 1,500-person pilot program," said Yuttachai Teyarachakul, head of personal financial services at United Overseas Bank (Thai).

TMRW also offers chat-based customer service, including in Thai, aimed at younger generations more used to typing out messages than speaking on the phone. This saves users the trouble of exiting the app to call a customer service representative.

Thailand is the world's leader in online banking, with 74% of the population using it, according to data from sources including British research company We Are Social. The world average, in comparison, is 41%. UOB chose the country as the launchpad for its digital bank based on the country's abundance of avid smartphone users.

"While ASEAN is known for its diversity, there remains a set of fundamental expectations by the digital generation when it comes to digital services, such as simplicity and an engaging user experience," said Dennis Khoo, UOB's head of retail for digital. The bank aims to expand TMRW's customer base to 3 to 5 million across the region in the next five years.

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