UOB is going after Asean’s millennials with a digital bank called TMRW – and its biggest draw could be a game that levels-up with savings

Dr Dennis Khoo, head of group retail digital at UOB said that the digital generation of consumers want simplicity and engaging user experiences.
Business Insider/Jessica Lin

One of Singapore’s largest banks has announced it is launching a digital bank brand that will target young, digitally-advanced customers across key markets in the region.

Named TMRW (pronounced “tomorrow”), UOB’s new digital bank will be rolled out for the first time in Thailand, where a pilot programme has already started with 1,500 customers.

With an aim to launch in a second market towards the end of the year, the digital bank’s other markets will eventually also include Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam – encompassing a customer base of between 3 million and 5 million users in the next five years.

Millennials bank differently

At the announcement held on Thursday (Feb 14), UOB said that 60 per cent of Asean is under 35 years old, and more than 70 per cent of Asean consumers already go online to browse or purchase items.

According to the bank, TMRW is the first mobile-only bank targeted at Asean millennials, and was conceptualised with a “different generation, different solution” approach.

Dr Dennis Khoo, head of group retail digital at UOB said that the digital generation of consumers have “a set of fundamental expectations” when it comes to digital services. This includes simplicity and engaging user experiences.

“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,” he added.

He said that the mobile-only bank will make banking interesting and fun, with insights to help users spend smarter and a game to entice people to save.

The game (right) entices users to save more money.

Powered by AI technology, the TMRW app is also meant to learn customers’ usage patterns so it can provide more customised service over time.

For instance, instead of an app menu, the new digital bank’s app will feature services based on the customer’s historical activity.

The app will also provide transaction insights and travel summaries of what a user spent money on, and alert them when spending on a certain category has increased. It will also sound the alarm on unusual transactions.

A preference for texting among millennials also led to the development of a chatbot that mimics the experience users get on popular messaging apps.

According to the bank, TMRW is the first digital bank in the world to feature a call function within its digital chat service so there is no need for a user to exit or toggle away from the app when speaking to support staff. The chat bot is also able to recall historical conversations that customers refer to.

To develop the digital bank’s capabilities, UOB partnered with fintech firms Personetics and Meniga through its own Engagement Labs (eLabs), which is a dedicated unit set up to explore using the latest technologies and behavioural insights to deepen customer engagement.

“We’re constantly looking for more fintech that can make this experience even more engaging, even more anticipatory,” Dr Khoo said.

As all services are offered through the mobile app, there is no need for a customer to step into a bank branch at all – not even to change their ATM PIN.

Banking on millennial gaming habits

One of the biggest draws of the TMRW app will undoubtedly be its gamification of money management. Customers in a pilot programme launched in Thailand said the game, which helps users meet savings goals, was one of their favourite features.

The game designed to entice saving allows the customer to level-up and build a virtual city that gets bigger as savings increase.

UOB said it found that when it comes to learning how to manage one’s finances, the target audience “responds better to prompts that are fun and do not make them feel guilty”.

In a bid to build a “simple, engaging and transparent” banking experience, another differentiating factor of the TMRW app is its elimination of banking jargon.

To build the service, UOB said it studied millennials through ethnographic research, and learned from market leaders in the digital bank space such as Poland’s mBank and Monzo in the UK. It also drew on the expertise of millennial brands such as Facebook Google Amazon and Alibaba – brands which “revolutionised engagement”, Dr Khoo said.

Noting that the millennial generation will be UOB’s main clients in the future, Dr Khoo said it was important for the bank to understand the digitally-savvy population and serve their needs today.

Apart from customer numbers, the bank will also measure TMRW’s success by how engaged customers are, and focus on getting existing users to be advocates of the brand.

For a start, TMRW will set up 350 kiosks in Thailand to allow for a completely self-service registration process. It also has plans to work using a biometric system to allow for easier registration in future, Dr Khoo said.

Despite the millennial focus, TMRW will not have any age restrictions, Dr Khoo said.