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Best Bank Awards

Malaysia's best digital bank 2019: Hong Leong Bank

Hong Leong 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.

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