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In Conversation With… Michal Bialer, Chief Product Officer, Trust Bank

Written by Kapronasia July 24 2023 July 24 2023

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"In conversation with..." is a series from Kapronasia featuring conversations with some of Asia's most interesting fintech players and companies. To keep up with the series, please subscribe to our newsletter. If you have an interesting story and want to be part of the conversation, reach out.

This edition is done in collaboration with Fintech Connect Leaders Asia 2023 to be held on August 28 - 30 in Singapore.

 

Thank you everyone for joining us for another In Conversation With, in collaboration with Fintech Connect Leaders Asia 2023. We’re happy to have Michal Bialer here with us. Michal is the Chief Product Officer for Trust Bank, and we are really excited to have this conversation with him. Michal, thanks for taking the time.

1.     To start off, can you briefly introduce yourself and your role at Trust Bank?

I am Michal Bialer and I have over 20 years of experience in product management within the fintech startup and corporate business sectors.

As Chief Product Officer at Trust, I am responsible for overseeing the product value proposition for customers. This includes managing various business lines such as credit cards, deposits, payments and insurance, as well as verticals encompassing mobile and website customer lifecycle and engagement, in collaboration with design and research teams.

2.     How has your role evolved over time?

My role has evolved in tandem with the bank’s growth, from its launch to its current state as a fully operational institution. At present, my primary focus lies in delivering continued innovation to our customers and achieving Trust’s business objectives within the parameters of our regulated environment.

Now that we are live, we are actively receiving substantial customer feedback regarding what aspects they find favorable, as well as areas that have room for improvement or features they would like to see. Being a digitally-native bank, we possess the capabilities to rapidly address and deliver on these requirements. Since launch, we have released app updates around twice as fast as traditional banks in the market. This gives us an incredible opportunity to engage with our customers very directly and build products that deliver an innovative and outstanding experience.

3.     What were some of the initial challenges you faced when you first joined Trust Bank?

Trust places a strong emphasis on fostering a culture which is rich in diversity and celebrates the unique strengths of every individual. One of my initial challenges was to ensure that the Product Team comprised individuals from different backgrounds, not limited to the banking industry but also including professionals from e-commerce, big tech, and small startups, to create a melting pot where ideas thrive.

Given the regulated nature of our industry, achieving the right balance is crucial. For example, our risk functions primarily comprise colleagues with banking backgrounds who collaborate with our cutting-edge product and technology teams to deliver our innovative products. We are incredibly proud of the culture and team that we have built, which prioritizes the customer at its core. In fact, this is one of the most customer-centric environments I have had the privilege of working in. It is also really diverse on many measures. For example, around 45% of our staff are female, which is really high for a tech-enabled firm.

4.     What have been Trust Bank’s key success factors in the journey so far?

Trust successfully onboarded over half a million customers in its first seven months alone, equivalent to a 10% market share, positioning Trust as the world’s fastest-growing digital bank. This is particularly noteworthy and shows there is a clear market demand for digital banks, even in a highly competitive and developed market like Singapore.

Moreover, we are also witnessing significant customer engagement, which has been very encouraging. Our credit card activation rate stands at an impressive 85%, and customers engage in approximately 15 card transactions per month, or every other day. Furthermore, our business metrics are also strong, with deposits exceeding S$1 billion.

Several factors have contributed to this progress, but the key ones include the strength of the culture that we have built, the incredible ecosystem we are integrated into with our partners at NTUC, FairPrice Group, and Income Insurance Limited, and the tech capability we have developed. All these enable us to deliver a differentiated and innovative experience to our customers.

5.     Can you share some unique strategies or initiatives that Trust Bank has implemented to stay ahead of the competition?

Firstly, we launched with a variety of banking products, namely savings accounts, payments, credit cards, and insurance as that is what our target customer base told us would make a difference. This approach was quite uncommon for a digital bank, as most tend to debut with just one product. Furthermore, all our offerings are built upon three fundamental principles: simplicity, transparency, and rewards.

Secondly, in our competition with major banks in the market, our agility and customer- centricity have proven to be significant differentiators. We have swiftly rolled out new features based on customer feedback, often within a remarkable 10-day timeframe. Such responsiveness is not typically expected from traditional banks, and it has garnered us a highly loyal customer base, as reflected in our favorable App store rating.

Thirdly, our focus lies in bringing innovative products to market. Sometimes this might be an existing product done in a different way, such as our fully digital supplementary credit card. Alternatively, we may introduce entirely novel offerings, such as our numberless credit card and the ability for our customers to use one physical card for credit and debit functions, toggling between them through our App. These innovations bring either greater convenience or greater security for our customers, elements that they value highly.

6.     How does Trust Bank approach innovation and technological advancements in banking?

Our approach is rooted in both our culture and our tech capabilities. We prioritize listening to our customers, finding out what their pain points are and devising effective solutions to address them. Through this approach, we can continue to innovate through leveraging the latest, cutting-edge tech stack to consistently deliver a delightful experience that differentiates us from the rest of the market.

7.     Can you share some examples of how Trust Bank is leveraging technology (e.g. AI) to improve customer experience?

Our customer onboarding is a great example of how Trust is leveraging technology to improve the customer experience. With Trust, it takes around three minutes to open an account and start using your digital card. We regularly receive feedback and stories from our customers regarding this process as it is their first interaction with Trust. It really raises the standard for what they expect from a bank. We believe this is the best bank onboarding experience anywhere in the world and it is one of the reasons why our customer referral program has been so successful.

The creation of this exceptional experience is made possible through a combination of cutting-edge technology utilized in building Trust. Additionally, it is facilitated by the remarkable digital infrastructure available in Singapore. However, it is important to note that while this infrastructure is accessible to all banks, Trust is the only institution that has been able to deliver such a positive and customer-centric onboarding experience.

8.     What role does sustainability play in Trust Bank's operations and long-term strategy?

Building a sustainable business model is at the heart of what we do. We started with a few inherent advantages. Our platform is brand new and has no legacy, so we do not have to channel significant investments into keeping old systems running. The great thing about this is that it means we can pass on the benefits to our customers whilst still building an economically viable model.

Our ecosystem and tech capability further enable us to operate in a financially sustainable manner. For instance, around 70% of our customer sign-ups originate from referrals by existing customers to their friends and family. The cost of this referral program is over seven times lower than the typical market cost, so whilst we are providing customers with sign-up rewards that they really value, we are doing it in a way that is financially sustainable.

Moreover, acquiring customers is only part of the equation; we also strive to foster engagement and regular usage of our services to cultivate a sustainable business. So far, the results have been highly encouraging. Our deposit balances have exceeded S$1 billion, credit card activation levels stand at around 85%, and our customers have utilized over 1.7 million digital coupons. Additionally, customers are using our card an average of 15 times per month, indicating that the Trust card is becoming a regular use card.

9.     Can you share some of the future plans or initiatives that Trust Bank is working on?

The Singapore retail market presents an immense amount of opportunity, and we are eagerly looking forward to furthering our progress in this landscape. Our upcoming product launch will be personal loans, and we anticipate making this available to our customers within the next month. As with all our offerings, our focus remains on delivering an exceptional customer experience characterized by ease, transparency, and rewards.

10. What role do you see Trust Bank playing in the future of Singapore's banking industry?

Our ambition is to position ourselves as the fourth largest retail bank in Singapore by next year. This is an ambitious target and one we believe we can achieve. To realize this ambition, we will continue to be a digital bank with broad appeal, the digital bank for the everyday us!

Interestingly, our customer base exhibits a higher degree of age group diversification than one might typically expect from a digital bank. Surprisingly, approximately 10% of our customers are over the age of 65. Part of our role in the future of Singapore’s financial industry is to help more individuals, regardless of age, feel confident and

comfortable in utilizing digital financial services safely. This endeavor ultimately contributes to simplifying and improving their lives.

11.  Lastly, what is the one thing that no one is talking about in Singapore’s financial industry, but should be?

There is significant discussion surrounding innovative software and solutions that utilize technologies such as artificial intelligence. However, there is not enough discussion on identifying and addressing the pain points that can be solved for customers.

12.  Can you share a sneak peek about what you would be sharing at Fintech Connect Leaders Asia 2023?

Audiences can expect to hear about Trust’s journey building a digital bank and our focus on introducing greater personalized features for our customers.

13.  What are two things you find most valuable about attending Fintech Connect Leaders Asia 2023?

Fintech Connect Leaders Asia serves as an incredible platform for knowledge transfer, bringing together some of the most prominent names in the financial industry.

It also provides an opportunity to directly network with these industry leaders, to learn from their challenges and successes, as well as to share with them the Trust story.

14.  Why is Fintech Connect Leaders Asia an event not to be missed?

It is a one-stop event which sees the coming together of a range of senior leadership from well-established financial institutions to openly interact, share, and learn from one another in their respective areas of expertise.

That's a great way to sum up the key takeaways here. Michal, thank you so much for your time. Looking forward to seeing you at Fintech Connect Leaders Asia in a couple of weeks. Again, this has been Kapronasia’s In Conversation With, in collaboration with Fintech Connect Leaders Asia 2023. Thanks again, Michal, really appreciate your shared insights here.

 

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Fintech Connect Leaders Asia is the leading annual meeting place for CIOs, CTOs, COOs, and Heads of Digital Transformation and Payments happening this August from 28-30 at Raffles City Convention Centre, Singapore. The 2023 agenda can be downloaded here.

Kapron Asia readers enjoy 15% off tickets when using the code KPA15 to get tickets.