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|The digitisation of banking processes and surge of online features is on the rise, Photo: Le Toan|
The human touch
Let’s take the recent case of a former Eximbank deputy director who took advantage of a VIP client’s trust to steal her savings of VND245 billion ($11.13 million) as an example. Put simply, were it not for the human element, the money would not have gone missing.
The former employee, who has fled prosecution, is said to have had the client sign a blank document, with which he then authorised three individuals related to him to withdraw the client’s money.
Now imagine these transactions as being digitised. Things could have turned out better if tighter control and security checks of the withdrawals had been performed by artificial intelligence. The human involvement in the process would be minimised or better supervised to prevent fraud.
What happened at Eximbank has prompted the central bank to request all lenders to review internal checks on savings and deposit transactions and to strengthen the cross-inspection and rotation of bank officers, in a bid to prevent and minimise the risk of fraud.
HSBC’s 2017 ‘Global Trust in Technology’ report found out that when it comes to finances, people seek safety and prudence from those who manage their money above all else.
“Trust is the cornerstone of all relationships. Banks have had decades to build extensive infrastructures, develop solutions for compliance and regulatory requirements, and most importantly, earn customer trust. That is why for banks to stay relevant, we cannot lose sight of our core purpose: to safeguard and responsibly look after people’s money,” said Winfield Wong, head of wholesale banking at HSBC Vietnam.
Going digital with savings and deposits should benefit both lenders and their customers, as no case of artificial intelligence turning greedy and going after customers’ money has ever been recorded.
“Digitisation helps enhance customer experience and improve efficiency while keeping them safe,” stressed Wong.
All things digital
Digitisation will not stop at savings and deposits, which have already become computer-controlled at numerous banks, both foreign and local. In fact, payments and lending may go the same way.
According to HSBC’s Wong, the financial services industry is going through a period of extraordinary transformation. “After centuries in which pen, paper, and physical cash ruled banking interactions, digital technology is now bringing a new level of analysis, connectivity, and transaction power literally to customers’ finger tips,” he noted.
The local government and the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) have been rather active in pursuing a digital path for the finance and banking sector, for the sake of socio-economic development. The APEC CEO Summit held last November in Danang, for instance, recognised and promoted digitalisation across all sectors, from agriculture to financial services.
Natasha Ansell, representing the Banking Working Group at the Vietnam Business Forum last December, noted that if implemented timely and correctly, digitisation will expedite Vietnam’s administrative reforms and financial inclusion.
Digitisation has already arrived
Innovation and application of advanced technologies has been embedded into modern banking products and services at quite a number of banks with an open-minded approach.
TPBank, for example, launched its new model of a digital banking transaction kiosk, called LiveBank, in 2016. The model is available around the clock, incorporated with user-friendly functions and located in residential areas and shopping malls, giving its customers easy access to make transactions anytime they want.
HSBC, in partnership with the local government, provides an online payment platform, offering e-tax payment, e-customs payment, and the Evolve platform that helps save time, cut down on paper use, and improve the operational process.
Evolve is an e-FX platform that gives corporate customers easy online access to liquidity through competitive pricing of FX spots, forwards, swaps, and time option forwards across the HSBC network. It enables customers to see real-time two-way pricing and the forward tenor curve of the selected product without contacting the bank’s traders.
“These innovations have supported our corporate customers well in integrating into the digitisation trend in the country,” said Wong, adding that one of its clients, Digiworld – a distributor of multinational ICT brands in Vietnam – has used Evolve to buy foreign currency to facilitate its importing activities.
“They started using Evolve in October 2017 and highly value the tool, as it helps them save time, since they do not need to call the bank for price checks; to improve productivity, because the price is fixed and there is no need for negotiations; and to get better commercial benefit, as they can view the FX rate in real time, comparing among all banks and choosing the best pricing for the company.”
Digitalisation, in Wong’s view, would serve as an add-on or replacement to some daily or routine functions to improve banks’ operational efficiency and customer experience, but some core elements of banking such as client understanding, client relationship management, and client consultancy still require the human touch.
“Physical branches and relationship managers still have their own value in serving banks’ main purpose, which is to safely and responsibly look after people’s money,” Wong said.