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Dwaipayan Sadhu, CEO, Trust Bank (Photo courtesy of the bank).

Trust Bank sets the bar for digital banking in Asia Pacific

The digital bank targets to be Singapore's fourth largest retail bank, CEO Dwaipayan Sadhu said.

One year after being launched, Singapore’s Trust Bank has already declared a very ambitious plan: become the fourth largest retail bank in the Lion City.

It may seem like a tall order, but in just 12 months, the digital bank — the brainchild of global banking giant Standard Chartered and Singapore supermarket chain Fairprice Group — has made great strides that other digital banks across Asia Pacific are struggling to replicate.

In its first anniversary in September 2023, the bank listed 600,000 customers. That’s easily 12% of the total population of Singapore.

These metrics make Trust the “world’s fastest growing digital bank by market share,” Dwaipayan Sadhu, CEO of Trust Bank, told Asian Banking & Finance in an exclusive interview.

Two things are key to this: its ecosystem and its real-time feedback.

“Today, over 70% of our clients join us as reference from another client. So, you can see how strong our word-of-mouth referral has been,” Sadhu told attendees at the recent ABF Summit held in Singapore, where he delivered a lecture.

Singapore Trust’s response to customer feedback is another key area that Sadhu was proud of. “Every nine days, we have a new app update going out. That’s twice as fast as in the market,” Sadhu said. “In about 90 days, we have delivered over 700 product enhancements.”

Asian Banking & Finance spoke with Sadhu to learn more about how Singapore Trust Bank succeeded in a highly-banked market like the Lion City, and what lessons they learned over the past year.
 
How has your past year’s operation shaped your views about Singapore’s digital banking landscape?
Clearly, what we have seen is that Singapore customers are very willing to adopt a new bank if we offer them real value and a great experience.

Early in our journey, we had heard that Singapore supposedly may not need a digital bank. Some naysayers said that there are already many digital banking apps, so do we really need a digital bank? But what we’ve seen since is that over 600,000 customers have joined Trust. That’s over 12% of the Singapore market. What’s made the difference for us is the extensive FairPrice consumer ecosystem which we are integrated with, as well as the personalised and real-time experience that we have brought to the market.

 

How does your approach to transparency differ from the rest in the market?
We differentiate ourselves by being very transparent with our customers.

For example, everything in our app happens in real time and it’s always transparent to our customers.  We have specific conditions that customers have to meet in order to receive their bonus rewards or interest. Now, there are similar products which exist in the market, but customers have to do multiple things in order to get their bonuses or rewards. What we’ve seen is that it’s always the customer’s responsibility to keep track of their progress — banks don’t make it easy for them. Customers sometimes even have to keep spreadsheets in order to keep track of them!

At Trust, our updates are in real time so you can track how you’re progressing in the app and what you need to do in order to maximise your rewards. This makes the experience not just transparent but also very easy for our customers.

 

What did Trust Bank do to earn the confidence of the 600,000 customers it gained the past year?
Trust has differentiated itself in many ways. First and foremost, we are integrated into the extensive FairPrice consumer ecosystem which delivers more than 1 million customer experiences nationwide each day.

Secondly, Trust is built using the latest and best technology which allows us to deliver personalised and real-time experiences to our customers. Lastly, Trust has truly innovated to bring market-first propositions to its customers, even creating new experiences for existing products. We believe that all these have made a huge difference to the everyday lives of our customers.

 

How does Trust put innovation at the forefront of its services?
Since Day 1, Trust has focused on innovation.

We introduced the first card in Asia which can be used as both a credit and debit card. You can toggle between credit and debit and choose how you want to use the card within the app. This eliminates the need to carry multiple cards.

Or take for example, how you would typically activate your card. Every bank will send its customers a blocked card. In order to activate it, sometimes the bank has to send an SMS or sometimes you have to go to a website.  At Trust, you just need to tap on your Trust app, and the card gets activated. Another example is our travel insurance proposition.

Typically, if you want to sign up for travel insurance, you will need to go through a separate application process. At Trust, it just takes a few taps in the app.

So, you can see that every step or product that we create is with the customer in mind and we try to do it differently. We consider the client journey and we try to see how we can make it simpler.

 

What ongoing challenges do digital banks in the region face, and how has Trust overcome the same? 
What we have seen globally is that many digital banks have struggled to be profitable and to build a profitable relationship. And the reason they have struggled is because they have been very narrow in their product offerings. Many digital banks globally only have either a deposit account or a prepaid card that their customers start with.

From the very beginning, Trust started with a fairly wide product suite. We started with a deposit account, a credit card, and family personal accident insurance. Since then, we have expanded to offer more insurance products as well as unsecured lending. We believe the wide product range that we have really positions us very well to build a long-term and deep relationship with our customers, which will be sustainable and profitable.

 

What is one important lesson that every digital bank must know in order to succeed?
The most important lesson for us has been customer-centricity. Everything that you do has to be for the customer. So, you must make sure that every part of your organisation — from your product managers to your compliance head, to your risk team and customer service — has to obsess about customer experience. We are working not just for Trust; we are working for our customers. If we keep that in mind, I think we have made a big start.

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