Singapore's best domestic bank 2020: UOB
UOB, led by deputy chairman and chief executive Wee Ee Cheong, recorded some impressive numbers to win this award for the second year in a row. They included a record net income of S$4.3 billion ($3.15 billion) in 2019, an increase of 8% over the previous year, and a strong performance which helped soften the blow of the coronavirus.
The pandemic hit hard. UOB’s first-half profit in 2020 fell 30% year on year. But the bank deserves credit for taking early action to address the impact the coronavirus would have on its customers, particularly the relief plan it announced in February – pre-empting a government-mandated response. UOB announced a S$3 billion relief assistance fund that month, as well as various loan relief schemes.
By early May the bank had approved S$4 billion in loans under a temporary bridging loan programme. UOB also furthered its usual CSR projects by adding Covid-19 relief to its list of initiatives. The bank has made community donations and provided laptops for disadvantaged children to continue learning remotely, among other actions.
UOB is not just a Singaporean bank, it is also a big player across Asia, covering 12 countries. Last year the bank saw a 10% increase in its cross-border income, accounting for 28% of group wholesale banking’s income. UOB, which had already set up shop in Ho Chi Minh City, opened a Hanoi branch in 2019.
The bank also demonstrated its savviness by developing a mobile-only digital bank called TMRW. UOB is ready to target southeast Asia’s young, entrepreneurial generation, which represents a $10 billion market opportunity. TMRW was developed in Singapore and launched last year in Thailand as a first step in tapping this market segment. The product will soon be rolled out across the region.