vmware CIo

UOB’s aggressive tech adoption pays off

Pic caption: VMware, UOB and Gartner at the media-exclusive panel discussion

VMware’s CIO Forum 2019 in Singapore had included a panel discussion for the media, about the regional landscape that organisations are executing their digital transformation against.

External panellists comprised of VMware customer Lawrence Goh from United Overseas Bank Limited (UOB)’s MD of Group Technology and Operations (GTO), and a Gartner distinguished analyst, Andy Rowsell-Jones.

Panel moderator, Sanjay Deshmukh, VP and MD for VMware in Southeast Asia and Korea (SEAK), kicked things off by pointing out that hybrid cloud and multi-cloud is the future and how from this, VMware’s role is clear.

VMware’s cloud vision

“Our vision around cloud starts with apps. Whether they are existing apps or modern apps, in containers or virtual machines (VMs), or public or private cloud, the goal is to provide a consistent infrastructure from data centre to the cloud to the edge.” said Sanjay.

Pertinently, Sanjay called out the disadvantages of moving workloads from data centre to cloud, with assets and apps spread out over multiple locations. This reality of hybrid clouds and multi-clouds gives rise to challenges in visibility and operations.

“Also, the traditional security investments in securing the perimeter, does not hold true anymore.”

VMware claims that they are able to provide consistency from 3 perspectives – flexibility around where businesses want to run their apps, consistency in visibility and operations, and consistent developer experience.

UOB in the region

UOB became the first organisation in SEA to deploy VMware Cloud on AWS to support the bank’s digital innovation journey. This joint cloud product offered by VMware and Amazon Web Services, allows customers to rapidly extend, migrate and protect VMware environments to AWS public cloud.

Adhunik Chung, Head of Group Shared Infrastructure Services at UOB’s GTO division said, “VMware Cloud on AWS enables us to build our innovation platform on the cloud while maintaining our robust security standards.”

Addressing the audience during the panel discussion, Lawrence described UOB as a Singapore local bank that is also regional. He shared the two main objectives they want to achieve – customer-centricity and regional connectivity.

Presence and customers in  countries in this region, has made UOB extremely aware of the importance of seamless funds flow across borders. To facilitate all this, Lawrence shared that the banking group has recently launched a wholesale CRM service that gives regional businesses easier access to line of credit no matter which country they apply for it at.


According to the GTO Managing Director, the bank had completed standardisation of all their core systems in 2013. “The core systems include our customer systems, product systems, risks and regulatory systems, financial systems, and more.”

After the standardisation exercise which took a period of about four to five years, UOB was finally able to start their innovation initiatives.

“We experimented with what matters most to customers. With a digital bank launched in Thailand, we get to learn the experiences customers want,” Lawrence said.

Typical cloud concerns for UOB

Gartners’ Andy said this of cloud computing today, “Compute, network and storage – the folks trained in these have to transition go becoming a buyer and orchestrator of cloud services.”

He also cautioned about the “cadre of people who will tell it’s a stupid idea to move to cloud. And they will have passive aggressive responses when mishaps happen.”

To this Lawrence responded, “Yes, security is a big concern, so we have to ensure we don’t compromise.

“But it’s also important to understand what the business strategy is trying to achieve.”

Lawrence shared about the tooling UOB has had to build to enable their multi-clouds of on-premise/private and hybrid clouds.

“VMware has choice of extending workloads to cloud, for easier operations and visibility.”

Admitting that there is lot of learning from trial-and-error, Lawrence said UOB also experimented with the safest workload first.  Another best practice he shared is to ensure an agnostic layer for developers.

Lawrence said, “(This is to) ensure that your apps can roll out seamlessly and to all the operating systems out there. You have to leverage some part of the cloud to enable testing and innovation in there.”

Duncan Hewett, VMware SVP and GM in APJ said, “Cloud and its ability to extend, has extended ability to innovate faster as well.

“If you want to get new customers, you can actually do it. It only requires a willingness for IT to step up and say Yes to the business.”


UOB has a mobile-only digital bank that they launched in Thailand early this year.

Called “Tmrw”, the app was ready to launch in 14 months, with at least one more market to open within 2019. UOB is able to do this because of their collaborative approach to fintechs.

“We partner with fintechs. We feel if we can harvest and use fintechs, we don’t have to spend a long time deciding the architecture and software,” Lawrence explained.

The first app launched in Thailand, leverages two fintech products, one of which UOB has a minor stake in the company that developed it.

When the app opens in a new market, there is expectation for another 3 fintech products to be integrated into the app.

Lawrence said, “Our approach is to Buy rather than Build – thus we work closely with our software and system integration partners on this journey.”


(This journalist was a guest of VMware’s to their annual CIO Forum in Singapore)