UBS Wealth Management has inked a deal with a Singapore-based tech firm to develop a secure communication platform for the lender’s relationship managers and clients, aimed at resolving the “massive problem of client inconvenience”, says Ketan Samani, chief digital officer at UBS Wealth Management Asia Pacific.
In an exclusive conversation with Asian Private Banker, Samani adds that the recording tool will also reduce the risks faced by RMs, by ensuring that client communication is compliant.
“There is a significant lag time between clients reaching out to their RMs on whatsapp or other social platforms and bankers refraining from answering directly due to regulatory concerns and deferring the response to an email,” Samani explains.
“With this fintech partnership, we are able to crack the code of managing recorded conversations on public platforms while retaining the privacy of other chats.”
The fintech company with which UBS WM is partnering, FinChat, will work at the Swiss lender’s innovation lab in Singapore, Evolve, with the aim of developing a solution that allows bankers to provide product and investment information to clients.
“It is important for us to break any impasse between the ever-increasing usage of social media platforms and rise in compliance-monitoring standards,” Dirk Klee, chief operating officer and head of digital strategy at UBS Wealth Management, said in a statement.
“In the future, we look to engage with thousands of clients through their favourite social messaging platforms.”
Samani adds that the platform will include built-in monitoring middleware that will provide compliance teams with a search window and the ability to red flag any specific words. “This is a simple but important step to take to make our client advisors more compliant.”
A WhatsApp moment
Samani says there is a “desperate need” for a solution that facilitates secured communications with clients, particularly millennials, via social media platforms.
For instance, Samani says that based on a number of meetings he has had, it is clear that “almost 100% of the bank’s clients have asked their bankers if there is a more convenient way to chat”.
Indeed, globally, there are roughly 2.8 billion active social media users, with one billion and 850 million on WhatsApp and WeChat each month, respectively, according to a recent report by We Are Social.
However, Samani notes that global banks have been fined for not keeping track of chats on messaging platforms.
Last December, HSBC, J.P. Morgan and Credit Agricole were fined a combined €485 million for participating in a cartel to “fix the key Euribor pricing benchmark”, a transgression that was orchestrated through corporate chat rooms and instant messaging services, according to media reports.
Industry experts caution that greater regulatory scrutiny in Hong Kong and Singapore on the use of digital tools to communicate with and advise clients may slow down adoption rates at private banks. Samani says that UBS WM’s proof-of-concept did not need regulatory approval, as the tool is for recording purposes only and RMs are encouraged not to dispense advice at this stage.
UBS Wealth Management will first enter a proof-of-concept period with FinChat for two months, after which time the bank will decide whether or not to pilot the tool with its Asia Pacific clients and eventually extend it to those based in Switzerland.