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IDC’s AFS Congress 2017; CIMB’s approach to fintech startups

During IDC’s Asian Financial Services Congress 2017 in Singapore, CIMB’s Senior MD of Group Information Services, Devabalan Theyventheran shared his view of the fintech startups ecosystem and how banks like CIMB are approaching them.

No doubt, fintech startups are more agile and responsive to market forces, whereas established and traditional banking institutions are ‘restricted’.

But banks do have licenses, established Know-Your-Customers (KYC) processes and likely a massive database, as well as the trust of their customers.

So, banks and fintechs have to work together to leverage each others’ strengths.

And Devabalan sees three areas of collaboration happening, namely digital wallets, payments and treasury & trade via blockchain or distributed ledger technology (DLT).

“They are two areas of disruption (by startups). These are consumer banking and funds & payment. That’s the way we see it.”

He added, “Banks cannot hide anymore – we can either be ostriches and hide or fight it or buy in. We need to make a decision”

Symbiosis? Kinda. Maybe. 

How is CIMB embracing this brave new world (of fintechs)?

“We are kind of squeezed – in between fintech startups and bigger players like AliPay, Samsung Pay, Apple Pay.”

At the same time, he observed that startups can’t survive on their own. “They need banks.”

As for banks taking on more startup-ish characteristics like being lean and agile, Devabalan had this to say: “How many banks think they are really doing Agile? Hand to heart?

“Can you imagine business and IT together in a room, doing sprints, fixing and testing, fixing and testing, fixing and testing… and rolling things out in two weeks?

“What we are really doing is taking software development lifecycle (SDLC) and ‘Waterfall’ techniques and squeezing it into a shorter time frame and saying, ‘Instead of 3 months, can you do it in 1.5 months??”

In other words, the ‘cheese’ keeps moving for the internal IT of banks like CIMB that have a regional footprint, and in recent times this ‘cheese’ is moving way ahead and much faster away than before.

It is for these reasons that startups and banks have to learn to get along and work together.




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