Client Interview: Maritime Bank, Vietnam

Maritime Joint Stock Commercial Bank (MSB) is recognized as one of Vietnam’s most innovative banks with a daring business strategy. Founded in 1991, the company has experienced major growth and development, particularly following its merger in 2015 with Mekong Development Bank (MDB). MSB has since become one of the five largest commercial banks in Vietnam, with a branch network of nearly 300 offices and 500 ATMs nationwide. In this article, Quang Huynh Buu, CEO of MSB discusses how SunTec is helping MSB develop further and transform its digital systems.

Q. Could you throw some light on Maritime Bank’s operations?

In recent years MSB has expanded across Vietnam. We are striving to build a convenient, reliable and user-friendly transaction bank, which is always at the forefront of our customers’ minds. Our goal is to deliver tailored financial services and products, which fulfil the demands of our customers, from retail customers in both rural and urban areas, to Small – Medium Enterprises (SME) and large corporates. At the moment we have over 1.3 million retail customers and 30,000 SME, corporate and financial institution customers.

Q. What are your bank’s core beliefs and value propositions?

MSB strives to be simple, convenient and reliable. One of our core values is continuous improvement. In this Digital Age, there are always opportunities for further improvement. We aim to achieve this in everything we do. At the moment, we are striving to improve operational efficiencies using automation and technology.

Q. What are Maritime Bank’s key strategic initiatives and goals, both long-term and short-term?

Our key goal at MSB is to become the Thought Leader in customer-centricity. We want to change the way banks view their customers, by focusing on a customer-centric philosophy and providing a seamless user experience for all our customers.

Our customers expect instant responses in any area of banking, whether it is for loan applications or debit card payments. Our short-term goal is that our customers should always receive personalised services and offerings regardless of the channel.

Q. What were your main challenges when trying to achieve these goals?

One of the major challenges we faced was trying to connect with the unbanked and under-banked. Currently,around 70 percent of Vietnam’s adult population do not have direct access to banking services. We wanted our offers to encourage these people to move to formal banking platforms.

Another challenge was to become more flexible and agile to increase our customer-centricity. The key to solving this problem was SunTec, as it was able to offer a technological solution which could be implemented smoothly and on time. An additional challenge faced was acquiring staff who shared our vision and the project management skills needed to help implement this new technology.

Q. How is customer behaviour changing?

Thanks to the internet and social networks, customers are more aware than ever of the services banks and other financial institutions can offer them. As a result, customers are becoming more demanding and less patient with poor service and deals. This means customer churn happens much faster today.

Customer expectations have been raised thanks to their everyday interactions with digitally transformed retailers and content providers. They are more willing to try digital banking versus conventional high-street banking. However, one thing that hasn’t changed is that customers want everything fast, simple and convenient at a lower cost, which we always aim to provide.

Q. What kind of business challenges has Maritime Bank faced in relation to regulation, technology investments and disrupters in the last three years? What do you think banks should do to stay ahead of the game?

The main business challenge MSB has faced over the last couple of years, has been increasing market competition from digital banks. New technology means these Challenger Banks are increasingly agile and flexible; therefore they are able to meet the modern customers’ needs quicker.

This year, the banking sector is being hit by increasing regulations. Roughly 30% of MSB’s IT investment decisions have been driven by regulatory requirements. However, the remaining 70% of our technology investment is driven by our goal to deliver seamless experience for our customers in Vietnam.

In this Digital Age, banks have to adopt and invest in new technologies in order to survive and grow. At the same time, banks need to consider their long term vision to ensure the technologies they employ are future-proof, or else they will keep spending considerable amounts of money on upgrading IT systems which will only be useful for a short time.

There are plenty of examples of big companies failing due to technology obsolescence. Apart from building a flexible IT infrastructure, banks need to team up with a good partner in the FinTech space to expand their capacities and customer offerings, only then can they build an ecosystem to ensure their direct relevance to the customer.

Q. How is Maritime Bank looking at digital transformation?

At MSB, we place digital transformation at the centre of our strategy. Having watched digital become key in our customers’ lifestyle, we need to produce offerings to match and meet their needs. We agree with SunTec’s view, “digital is a bank in itself”, it is the perfect medium in which to engage with a customer. Using digital not only improves our products and services but it builds a two-way customer relationship.

Over the last few years we have invested in digital transformation to improve our customer offerings. With the help of SunTec we are developing these offerings, including personalisedinterest rates and transactional pricing. In parallel, we are also developing a new ecosystem to help our customers; for example, we are automating our transactional banking customers’ transaction processes, thus giving these customers the ability to offer a 24/7 payment transfer service on their platform.

Q. How do you think SunTec has helped you become digital?

We are working with SunTec to accelerate our digital transformation. The total platform implementation and training only takes four weeks, so when it is integrated we can start offering our customers the benefits almost immediately. Once the platform is up we plan to work with SunTec to use these learnings to radically improve our digital transformation across the bank.

With SunTec’s support we created a whole new team, the ‘Customer-Centricity Team’, who works under the Retail Banking sector. As we roll out this transformation to our Corporate and Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) groups, we look forward to expanding this team. Our Customer-Centricity Team drives our digital campaigns to make sure that our new offers are in line with customer demands.

Q. How do you see SunTec fitting into future innovative digital initiatives at Maritime Bank?

SunTec is helping us automate our customer processes, so that we are agile and flexible, and offer customers what they want. Once ready, the SunTec platform will help us reduce our time to market to become more customer focused. After this the next aim is to start rolling digital transformation out and continue to grow our digital innovations. We’ve not noticed any slowdown in our customers’ appetite for exciting new products, so we’re aiming to stay one step ahead of them.


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