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OCBC takes complex face-to-face wealth advisory process online

OCBC on Tuesday said it has managed to take a "complex face-to-face process" involving more than 50 pages of documents and a comprehensive financial needs analysis (FNA) for wealth customers from being completed at physical meetings, to now be settled online. 

Following the launch of its latest virtual wealth advisory service in April amid the "circuit breaker" period, the bank recorded a surge in the sale of wealth management products online. A 45 per cent increase in sales was registered in the first 10 days of the launch on April 18, compared to the prior 10 days, said OCBC in a press release.

The range of wealth products sold include unit trusts, bancassurance products, structured investments, bonds, and foreign exchange products.

The internal virtual process was managed to ensure that it would still meet the standards of a "highly regulated" wealth advisory process.

OCBC said its encrypted video conferencing tool is used to ensure customers’ privacy. E-signatures are accepted instead of paper signatures; PDF copies of FNA forms, product summary and term sheets, and product application forms are sent by encrypted email in place of paper documents.

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"While many customers are still accustomed to face-to-face interactions with our bankers, even after the Covid-19 outbreak, this virtual process will become a new normal," said OCBC head of consumer financial services Sunny Quek. 

"In the future, customers will have a choice at their convenience to decide the best mode of engagement for their financial needs,” Mr Quek added. 

With the virus outbreak, the resulting lockdown has accelerated the adoption of digital banking services among individual customers and corporates of the bank in recent months. 

Since April 18, more than 1,000 OCBC financial and wealth advisers have been conducting meetings and sales advisory via video and screen-sharing facilities, in place of physical face-to-face interactions previously conducted at branches. 

OCBC said it has registered a broad-based increase in the take-up of digital services, from new accounts to the sale of investments. Within the first two weeks of the circuit breaker, time deposit placements online jumped 150 per cent.

Compared with in January, there was a 14 per cent rise in current accounts and savings accounts (CASA) opened in April. Overall, one in three credit cards and 30 per cent of CASA are now acquired digitally, said OCBC.

As for wealth management, the digital adoption for wealth solutions continued to rise in the first quarter of 2020. The bank saw a 40 per cent growth in financial transactions year-on-year. About 60 per cent of unit trusts were purchased digitally in Q1, reflecting a 2.5 times quarter-on-quarter growth in value.

Similarly, Q1 investment amounts into OCBC's robo-advisory platform RoboInvest grew 60 per cent quarter-on-quarter, and 3.5 times year-on-year. 

Overall, about 80 per cent of the bank's digitally-active customers now bank using their mobile phones; more than 90 per cent of the total volume of the bank’s financial transactions in Singapore are performed digitally. 

Consequently, there was a 60 per cent fall in average customer footfall at bank branches during the circuit breaker period which started on April 7. Twenty-four of OCBC's 46 branches had remained open.

OCBC chief Samuel Tsien had earlier told shareholders at the bank's annual general meeting that it will look to rejig its branch network strategy post-pandemic, in light of the growing uptake of digital services. 

Its banking peer Standard Chartered Singapore also foresees digital to become the "mainstream banking channel" in future, and expects digital services to be a key growth driver of its retail banking business in 2020. 

In a press statement last week, StanChart noted that digital adoption rates have hit "historic-high levels" in recent months. 

Fresh data from the bank showed that digital sign-ups for credit cards surged 71 per cent year-on-year for the first four months of 2020, while wealth and investment-related transactions more than doubled.

Overall, there was a 30 per cent year-on-year jump in the volume of digital transactions made in March 2020, while active mobile banking users grew by 42 per cent over the same period. 

StanChart said it has made investments into improving its digital banking and investment platforms. Most recently, the bank made all service requests available on its digital platforms.

Product sales on digital platforms in the first quarter of 2020 comprised almost half of the bank's overall sales – an almost two-fold increase from the same period last year.

StanChart said it is the only bank in Singapore to facilitate new-to-bank online trading account sign-up simultaneously with instant account opening. This had contributed to a 13-fold year-on-year increase in online CASA volume in Q1.

The volume of time deposits taken up online also increased nine-fold, thanks to the enabling of "dynamic rates" for time deposits online, said the bank. This means that, for example, a priority banking customer will be able to enjoy more attractive rates than a regular customer. 

Over at the bank's wealth management arm, the number of transactions and volume of digital investment platforms grew over 200 per cent year-on-year, while the number of monthly digital transactions on the online mutual funds platform surged 238 per cent since the start of 2020. 

In April, StanChart's online trading platform saw a 129 per cent spike in client applications, compared with the average monthly rate in 2019. 

As face-to-face meet ups have been restricted, the bank's investment advisers have shifted online to using e-platforms to engage clients and provide wealth advisory. 

Some 430 webinars reaching out to more than 6,000 clients were conducted by its investments specialist team since April to keep clients updated on market developments and investment strategies, said the bank.

More than 1,500 one-on-one online client consultations were also carried out by the bank's investment and insurance specialists since April. 

"There is no doubt that client behaviours and habits have shifted in the past months, and we will see sustained levels of clients opting to go digital as much as possible," said Dwaipayan Sadhu, StanChart head of retail banking in Singapore. 

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