Adapting to challenges in the financial services industry

Banking and other financial institutions are facing challenges due to changing customer expectations, changing regulations, innovation and technology, and rising competition.

Dato’ Howard Choo, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of IBH Investment Bank Limited, was speaking at an online talk on ‘Career in Financial Services and Challenges’ today. The event organised by WOU’s Penang Regional Centre (PGRC) and its School of Business & Administration (SBA) was attended by over 30 participants.

DATO’ HOWARD CHOO FOCUSED HIS TALK ON THE BANKING SECTOR.

He said the banking landscape is constantly evolving because of innovation, and this has led to many self-banking services being offered. This is in contrast to over 25 years ago when banks used to hire many SPM and STPM leavers as tellers to handle over-the-counter services, with the task of tellers now having less significance with the advent of more sophisticated ATMs and other automated services.

Dato’ Choo, who is also a Council Member of Asian Institute of Chartered Bankers (AICB), highlighted the rise in digital banking and online banking services, particularly in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. “IT professionals attending to the back-end of banking services have become more in-demand in the financial services sector,” he said.

THE BANKING INDUSTRY MUST ADAPT TO INNOVATION AND CHANGE, SAID DATO’ CHOO.

Elaborating on innovation and change management, he said the banking services must “embrace the changing environment and constantly think creatively to address current and anticipated business needs”. He stressed the importance of IT for modern banking operations to meet customer expectations of convenience and to address competition.

He also spoke about compliance of banks with the ever-changing national regulations and standards, e.g. anti-money laundering, financing of terrorism, cyber security, and so forth. He noted that banks are no longer required by regulations to set up branches in remote areas, leading to concentration of banks in urban areas.

DATO’ CHOO IS A COUNCIL MEMBER OF ASIAN INSTITUTE OF CHARTERED BANKERS.

Dato’ Choo highlighted the need for multidisciplinary graduates in view of the various banking services provided. He said banks now handle a lot of loans, and thus they need people who understand the business. “That is why banks recruit those with degrees in biology or agriculture because they lend to farming. For project financing, they may need people with engineering background.” He mentioned that the different categories of banks, e.g. commercial, investment or development, have different requirements.

He said since many universities have emerged, banks are more likely to take in graduates than non-graduates and this also changes the landscape.

THE VARIOUS CATEGORIES OF BANKS.

Dato’ Choo urged bank employees to embrace innovation and change management, customer focus, professionalism, and honesty and integrity. He added, “Banks should build a ‘customer first’ culture and deliver proactive service to exceed customer expectations.”

He reminded that when applying for work at banks, candidates should have a clear idea of which department they want to join.  Among the departments are risk management, accounts and finance, compliance, credit/loan administration, loans recovery, IT as well as consumer, corporate and enterprise banking.

WHAT BANKS LOOK FOR IN EMPLOYEES.

During Q&A, he said banking is no longer a lifelong career, and people must be multitasked, multitalented and be willing to learn new things.

He explained the difference between online banking and digital banking, citing that e-wallet is an example digital banking. He doubted that e-wallet will replace mainstream banking as in China since Malaysians have easy access to credit cards and saving accounts.

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