UOB launches new digital bank TMRW in Thailand to lure in Millennials

In a bid to get in with the Millennial crowd and ease their banking experiences, UOB launched the mobile-only bank called TMRW to serve the digital generation in ASEAN - starting with Thailand. The mobile app boasts an in-app virtual chat assistant inspired by popular messaging apps that customers can not only text, but call as well. It also has gamification aspects built in.

UOB will launch TMRW in other ASEAN markets by the second half of the year. When asked which market it was eyeing next, Dennis Khoo, head of group retail digital at UOB declined to comment. Nonetheless, Malaysia and Indonesia are also other Southeast Asia markets that the bank has its eye on. He added that Thailand was chosen because the market has a young demographic which is mobile connected and consumers' time on social media is one of the highest. On top of that, the standards of digital is high in Thailand.

“We know if we launched something in Thailand, the bar is already set high and that helps in the next countries that we start operations in,” he said.  He added that UOB’s strategy is to invest in both digital bank and digital banking.

UOB also aims to build a customer base of three to five million on the app over the next five years primarily through engagement. Khoo added that engagement is a key metric for the brand as if engagement is high, on-boarding comes naturally. Once the app is launched, there will also be ad campaigns to drive awareness of the new product. The app, which aims to stay away from banking jargon, seeks to "push simplicity" to the limit to appeal to the Millennials. Instead of having a traditional app menu, TMRW will learn from each customer's usage journey to bring upfront functions and information that are personalised to their needs.

Khoo said, "Having a mobile-only digital bank enables us to explore new frontiers when it comes to designing a user interface based on customers' banking behaviour and needs, and to be sensitive to the nuances of each market. What this means is that TMRW will not be a static one-size-fits-all app, but a digital bank that will continue to learn to create increasingly simple, transparent and engaging experiences for TMRW customers in each of our ASEAN countries."
We think it is very important to have a digital bank strategy, and a digital banking strategy.

"We know the Millennials are going to be different, they are going to work differently, play differently, and we know that they are going to bank differently. Being able to launch a bank that understand their needs, evolve with them is going to be very important for any retail bank. In 10-15 years time, the Millennials will be the main group of customers. If you don’t, in this period, understand them better, how are you going to serve the generation of tomorrow in banking?"

Khoo explained that the project was about two years in the making and the bank started on a blank slate. “We weren't going to copy anyone. We were going to do this on a blank slate,” he added.  While research was conducted around Millennials through studies and conversations, Khoo added that the bank also talked to market leaders in banking.

“We went to North America, we went to Europe to talk to banks throughout Asia, and of course banks with our footprint. Finally of course we looked at all the non-banks with familiar brands such as Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Alibaba,” he said.

“While ASEAN is known for its diversity, there remains a set of fundamental expectations by the digital generation when it comes to digital services, such as simplicity and engaging user experience. So we took the time needed to understand our Millennial customers and how and why the engage wih apps and digital services the way they do,” he added. As more insights are gathered, the app experience will evolve to be more interesting and fun, will helping customers to save and spend smarter.