Hong Leong Bank was named the “Best Digital Bank” and “Best Bank for SMEs” in Asiamoney Best Bank Awards 2019 – Malaysia. Euromoney reported on Wednesday.
Best Bank for SMEs
Hong Leong Bank’s digital obsession is transforming its relationship with its core franchise, Malaysia’s small and medium-sized business sector. In June 2018, and after a sustained gestation period integrating with external fintech partners, HLB rolled out its souped-up digital offering for business, an all-in-one platform that provides the usual business bookkeeping, alongside payroll, personnel services and deal-specific tax advice.
There’s even a button to launch digital advertising across national digital screens, reaching airports, shopping malls, convenience stores and hotels. All of which is enhanced by HLB’s continued branch makeover.
Chief executive Domenic Fuda says the ambition is to enable the customers to “live life uninterrupted.” Client take-up has been promising; HLB claims its new SME platform generated 25% loan growth in calendar 2018, and 44% more clients. This year the trend is even better, with HLB claiming around 10% quarterly loan growth, which is targeted to translate into 34.1% growth when measured year on year.
The bank has also made strides in peer-to-peer (P2P) lending, collaborating with Fundaztic, one of Malaysia’s leading P2P platforms, to reach creditworthy SMEs that may not ordinarily meet the bank’s conventional loan criteria. HLB says the Fundaztic tie-up ensures that all potential financing avenues are open to Malaysia’s SMEs.
Best Digital Bank
HLB boss Domenic Fuda’s ‘digital at the core’ ethos is paying off.
When he took over HLB in 2017, he first determined that the bank was operating in near 20th century-mode and, secondly, that his customers disliked queues.
So Fuda deployed what he calls the ‘Zero queue experience’ across HLB’s national branch network. Almost halfway through implementation, it is more Apple than Asian legacy bank. Customers wander into the branches, which have been revamped in pastel hues, and are approached by smartly uniformed staff wielding iPads.
As Fuda explains, the experience is designed to be warm and upmarket, not quite private bank but certainly hinting at that, and eradicating the need to wait in line for a teller.
The bank has increased automation of back-office functions so that more staff can be moved to the front of the branch to engage with customers. By May 2019, HLB had deployed its tablet solution in more than 40 branches: it plans to have the bulk of its 255 branches equipped through 2020.
These digital conversions, the bank says, are paying off at the bottom line: in the nine months from July 2018 to the end of March 2019, gross loans and financing expanded by an industry-leading 6.5% to RM133.6 billion ($32 billion). HLB’s bad-loan ratio was maintained at 0.8%, also best in the sector, it claims. Taxed profits came in marginally higher at RM2.028 billion.
Fuda’s hunger to digitalize HLB isn’t sated yet. This year, HLB opened the ‘CX Lab’ at its headquarters at Bukit Damansara, outside central Kuala Lumpur. The futuristic space is designed to test digital offerings before they reach the wider market, and to work with fintechs to meld their offerings into the modernizing HLB platform.
Since its launch, Fuda says the lab has collaborated with more than 30 fintechs and startups, while testing ideas with over 3,500 HLB customers to gauge their response.
In Vietnam, Hong Leong Bank is the first Southeast Asian bank to be granted a license to operate a wholly-owned foreign commercial bank, brining more than 100 years of regional banking heritage to Vietnam.
Commencing its operations in Ho Chi Minh City in October 2009, Hong Leong Bank Vietnam has expanded its network to four outlets and one direct sales office. With recent connection to over 17,000 ATMs and 100,000 POS terminals nationwide, the bank has brought convenience to customers to an exciting new level. The bank just launched a Virtual Visa prepaid card with outstanding features. Everyone can easily get a Virtual Visa Prepaid Card in just 2 screens on the smart phone with no fees at all by click here.