OCBC, UOB court fintech start-ups for innovation

OCBC clients will soon be able to chat with a virtual assistant to get answers on home loan packages.

The new service, which is underpinned by artificial intelligence (AI) technology, will be under way by the end of this year - a sign that the race in the financial sector continues to heat up.

Fintech (financial technology) start-ups are being courted aggressively to bring their innovation to the local banks. In OCBC's case, it started an accelerator programme in May under its newly created fintech unit, The Open Vault.

The aim was to invite start-ups to collaborate with the bank to develop and test their technologies and solutions.

It drew over 200 applications globally, with eight selected for mentorship by OCBC and start-up incubator Nest. Three were then chosen to conduct a three-month pilot at OCBC and Bank of Singapore in the fourth quarter of this year.

The trio are all start-ups in the area of AI and algorithmic advisory.

The AI home loan customer service platform created by CogniCor will be able to address initial queries from customers.

BondIT will test its bond investment advisory tool at Bank of Singapore, helping relationship managers deliver almost real-time recommendation.

And Fincast will be used by OCBC premier banking branches for portfolio analyses and recommendations.

OCBC chief executive Samuel Tsien said at a briefing yesterday that collaboration with fintech start- ups is necessary to induce a "cultural change" and allow innovative thinking in the highly regulated and structured banking industry.

OCBC's event yesterday was right on the heels of UOB's, which showcased the first cohort of fintech participants in its accelerator programme FinLab on Wednesday.

Eight were also chosen by UOB for its inaugural programme, with access to funding and mentorship support from the bank and Infocomm Investments, an Infocomm Development Authority subsidiary.

CardUp has joined UOB as a merchant to test its service, which allows users to make credit card payments to recipients that do not accept cards, such as a landlord.

Another company, blockchain start-up Attores, is working with UOB's global markets unit for its proof of concept.

In March, UOB partnered Israeli start-up OurCrowd to offer equity crowdfunding.

Meanwhile, DBS has also taken big strides towards innovating banking services. In April, it unveiled the first mobile-only bank in India, complete with an AI customer assistant.

These ambitious moves in the industry reflect Singapore's push to develop a smart financial centre.

Earlier this week, the Monetary Authority of Singapore set up the International Technology Advisory Panel to inform and advise the regulator on fintech developments globally.

This article was first published on August 5, 2016.
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