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An OCBC Discussion Panel: Embedded Financial Services & Ecosystem

During the Singapore Fintech Festival 2021, Doxa’s co-founder, Edmund, came together with distinguished panellists, Bock from OCBC, K K from Oracle NetSuite and Chun Wei from PracBiz for an honest discussion around the ecosystem today around financial services and technology.

If you have not watched the discussion, we have put together a summary for you so that you don’t miss out on these valuable insights!


Bock Cheng Neo (Moderator)
Executive Vice President, Head Of Partnerships, Global Commercial Banking

K K Pan
Vice President & GM Of Asia Pacific And Japan
Oracle NetSuite

Chun Wei Kuah
Chief Financial Officer
PracBiz Pte Ltd

Edmund Ng
Managing Director & Co-Founder
Doxa Holdings International Pte Ltd

Change & Transformation in the Financial Industry Today

The financial landscape is evolving rapidly today, driven by 3 powerful trends: digitisation of many industries, exponential adoption of efficient technology by customers to streamline their operations, and the expansion of e-commerce.

Note: Customers generally refer to businesses (banking customers) in the context of this discussion.

This has inevitably led these customers towards services like procurement, accounting or sales as a result, generating digital data that can be leveraged. With recent technologies such as API, AI, cloud services and microservices architectures, there are opportunities for banks and non-banks (i.e. fintechs) to deliver more value, CX and insights to customers to better run their businesses.

It is no wonder that consumption and usage patterns of banking services will only continue to evolve. On that front, the banks do recognise that they might not be able to do everything all on their own. Hence, OCBC is “very open to work with partners [like those represented in the panel], to offer a more comprehensive proposition to our customers.”

Why Embed Financial Services in Platforms

“Customers are demanding and requiring more integrated user experiences in their systems,” K K said, “to save time and increase productivity.”

Increasingly, they are also asking for such services on-demand, in the form of mobile apps. Embedding financial services can give them the ability to see their cash position, investment, budgeting, among other things on the go, which could possibly even be akin to a “global digital wallet”.

Customers can also now potentially access financing through their systems instead of going down to the bank physically.

Embedding Financial Services in e-Procurement

In Procure-to-Pay (P2P) and Order-to-Cash (O2C) flows, customers receive and issue invoices with such digital systems. So, how can platforms take the next step to help in hedging, cross-border payments, access to credit, early payment discounting?

The fact is, all these services would require infrastructure, risk monitoring and compliance… which the banks are already experts at! Therefore, the natural choice would be to partner with and embed them, including fintechs.

For example, in the construction industry and the larger built environment sector, access to financing is one key area. This also applies to all sub-contractors associated with a main contractor and is crucial in their adoption of such an integrated ecosystem, both from the smaller vendors’ standpoint as well as the financial institutions such as the bank.

Key Success Factors for Embedded Financial Services to Take Off

There are some success factors identified during the discussion:

  • Forging New Relationships: Moving from ‘Customer’ to ‘Partner’ flips the relationship and as a result, they may bring their ecosystem to the banks.
  • Platform’s Direction: Who builds the platform, and what offerings will they provide? Is it a repository of solutions, categorised by industry, or by offering?
  • Trust: Leveraging the trust of the bank, because customers have been banking with this system for an extended period of time.
  • Agility: Agility matters; how quickly can we adapt to the customer’s changing needs, and to identify the platform they can trust and build upon?
  • Connectivity: Building connectivity between systems through APIs and/or strategic partnerships.
  • Approach to User Experience: How quickly can we shift from a Business-to-Business (B2B) operating mindset to a Business-to-Human (B2H) model where we put the humans as the end-user first?

A New Paradigm Requires a Change in Mindset

Manual processes did not have the ability to be interconnected as the emphasis was on data ownership. However, in this new financial ecosystem, you cannot have data duplication and errors; information must be authentic and accurate.

At the same time, digitalisation is not a one-off phenomenon – customers have to be convinced that it is a digital transformation journey, and they need to be willing and able to embark on it.

Therefore, the onus is not solely on customers and platform providers. Banking or banking-related partners will need to re-assess their product, product scope, and priorities in this ecosystem as well. For example, instead of opening more physical branches, they could look to further leverage said ecosystem of fintech partners and other retailers for customer acquisition.

Lastly, the idea of money and account ownership has to shift (from bank books to a mobile or web application), which has seen progress, in part due to the pandemic. Globalisation and e-commerce have also created countless new opportunities for local businesses. Looking ahead, change seems to be the only constant.

Data Governance Concerns?

Businesses traditionally go to a platform like an ERP to do certain things like purchasing, etc. Now, we want them to release that data to platforms, banks, or partners to offer other services. How can we help businesses understand and deal with that?

Fit For Purpose

Platforms do hold a wealth of customer information that rightfully belongs to them. What needs to be done is to make sure that only data that is fit for purpose is released to partners. For example, in a financing request or cross-border payment, only the required information is sent to enable that transaction.

Build Trust & Demonstrate Value

But most importantly, it has to be communicated that customers own their data. We can help by demonstrating the value of sharing fit-for-purpose data that could enable them to secure financing, hedging or even investments based on their detailed financial data.

Government & Regulation

In Singapore’s context, it is safe to say that we continue to trust the bank because they are governed by strict protocols. The government also constructs rules and regulations for the interest of customers and consumers.

Concluding Thoughts

Regarding Embedded Financial Services and Ecosystems:

Chun Wei:
I think it’s a trend that cannot be stopped; it has started and it will continue to gain momentum.

Platform providers have to provide a service that allows every company to access financing, their funds, at their fingertips, to move along the direction that the market is moving.

K K:
My tagline is ASAP – “as soon as possible”, which is also “this is the time to do it” because fintech gives you agility, speed, the adaptability to change and the platform to expand.

How do you feel about the shift towards embedded financial services? Is it a boon or a bane? What are things to avoid and how should banks and fintechs address them?

Let us know by commenting on the LinkedIn post here.

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