Asia remains a key growth market and banks in the region continue to outperform on efficiency measures – particularly when compared with other parts of the world.
" In response to increasing competition and evolving customer expectations, Asia-Pacific banks need to focus on ramping up the digital transformation of their businesses.”
However, margins are still under significant pressure. A continuing low interest rate environment, ongoing regulatory costs, local and global economic and geo-political uncertainty, and trade tensions between the US and China are all having an impact.
But, as we look into 2020 and beyond, perhaps the biggest challenge facing incumbent Asia-Pacific banks is competition from non-traditional market entrants.
The Asia-Pacific region is home to a thriving fintech scene and, while they are unlikely to pose an immediate threat to the incumbents, these fintechs are certainly changing the market dynamic by offering customers innovative new products and services, as well as highly attractive fees and rates.
In addition, bigtech players in areas like China and India are also successfully leveraging their strong brands and existing infrastructure to move laterally into the financial services sector. With their built-in customer bases and high levels of consumer trust, bigtechs may in fact have the greater opportunity to take market share in the short term.
At the same time, new digital bank licenses are being made available in markets such as Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong, as regulators seek to encourage more innovation. Similarly, open banking agendas across the region – whether they are regulatory driven such as in Australia or more organic as is the case in China – look set to increase competition even further. Financial liberalisation in China is also likely to change the competitive dynamic in the region, as the country’s financial markets begin to open up to foreign financial institutions.
In this environment, the region’s incumbent players can’t afford to be passive. Primarily, they need to focus on ramping up the digital transformation of their businesses. Building their digital banking capabilities will help drive further efficiency and productivity and enable them to serve customers more effectively across markets.
If they can do this effectively, Asia-Pacifc banks have the potential to reach more unbanked and underbanked customers and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) across the region – a market segment that could potentially generate an additional $US800 billion in revenue for the sector.