Business / Economy

Technology to remake wealth management

By Jiang Xueqing in Singapore (China Daily) Updated: 2014-08-07 07:14

The speed at which Asia is creating wealth is increasing the demand for the creation of wealth management solutions and the digital revolution will change the way Asians manage their wealth, said Singapore bankers.

Tan Su Shan, group head of consumer banking and wealth management of DBS Bank Ltd, the largest lender in Southeast Asia by assets, said the wealth of high-net-worth individuals in Asia Pacific will grow at an annual compound rate of 9.8 percent between 2013 and 2016. In comparison, the global annualized growth rate will be 6.9 percent, North America, 6.4 percent, and Europe, 7.1 percent, the bank estimated.

Focused on the growth of affluence in Asia, DBS Bank's wealth management business had a 22 percent compound growth rate in the past four years. Wealth management accounts for almost 11 percent of its revenues, up from 7 percent five years ago.

Compared with the Western market, the Asian wealth management market is relatively new and by and large concentrated, Tan said.

"A typical Western bank that comes to Asia will bring the Swiss or European model, and it doesn't work. In the West, wealth was created many generations ago and ... it's always managed in a discretionary way. But that business model cannot apply to Asia where the wealth creation is new," she said.

In China, for instance, the people who create wealth are generally younger. They can take more risks and can be more aggressive, she said.

Along with the rapid increase of wealth in Asia, digital technologies such as cloud computing and big data analytics are also developing at an unprecedented speed. The new age of digital technology is set to revolutionize how business operates, said DBS in a research report published in June.

Piyush Gupta, CEO of DBS, said: "In the future, people are not going to need banks. People need banking. The ability to integrate banking into the day-to-day life of customers is what's going to distinguish and redefine banks of the future and banking of the future."

Gupta is convinced that the world is digitizing phenomenally. He said that in the next five years, two major trends are going to drive a fundamental shift in everything: one is mobility, and the other is data.

Ninety percent of the world's data were created by businesses and consumers in the past two years. Now, companies can start doing things that were never possible before, and some have the ability to find the right product for the right customer at the right time because of access to unlimited amount of data, he said.

DBS Bank announced in January that it will deploy IBM Corp's Watson, a cognitive computing innovation, to enhance customer experience by quickly analyzing, understanding and responding to big data.

Watson is a cloud-based technology that can process enormous amounts of information with the ability to understand and learn from each interaction at unprecedented speed. DBS intends to apply Watson to its wealth management business.

Gupta said some bankers had experimented with Watson. They gave it 100 insurance policies and taught it how to decide what insurance recommendation to make. At the end of two months, Watson was able to recommend the right insurance four times better than the bankers. Now they are trying to scale it to entire wealth management products.

In the past four years, DBS has spent S$600 million ($481 million) a year on technology. It has been spending more money to build up its digital capacity, which includes creating online and mobile banking platforms. On top of that, it will spend another S$200 million in the next three years to create more capacity.

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