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Three global banks open innovation labs in Singapore

Singapore

THREE global banks on Wednesday launched their respective innovation labs in Singapore amid the Singapore FinTech Festival.

Bank of China opened its first global fintech innovation lab in Singapore to spearhead its worldwide research and development (R&D) activities as well showcase its latest technologies.

The BOC Innovation Lab (Singapore) will also showcase artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, big data and cloud technologies. The facility at BOC Building in Battery Road is staffed by a robotic customer service officer named Star, which can quickly identify individual clients and recall their preferences with its facial recognition capabilities.

Visitors can also get a taste of the virtual reality (VR) experience BOC customers in Beijing are enjoying - viewing a car or an apartment for sale remotely.

BOC Innovation Lab (Singapore) is looking at setting up a training structure to build a pipeline of talents and foster financial innovation and research collaborations with partners such as fintech firms, institutes of higher learning and the government.

The largest Chinese bank in Singapore wants to add five to eight such labs globally in the next few years.

BOC president Liu Liange said having the bank's first global innovation lab in Singapore reflects its conviction in its globalisation strategy as well as confidence in its digital transformation and leveraging of fintech.

He said: "With Bank of China Innovation Labs around the world, we will enable accelerated innovation of financial products and technologies, and respond faster to market trends."

Australia's Westpac has also opened its Asia innovation hub, Westpac'co.lab, in Singapore. This will be used as a launchpad for Australian fintechs to tap Asia's "leading positioning" as a fintech hub, the bank said.

Westpac will work with fintechs to develop expertise in areas such as regtech, data analytics, AI and payments. Westpac's co.lab in Singapore is the bank's fourth innovation lab globally.

Michael Correa, Westpac's general manager, Asia-Pacific, said in a press statement: "We're seeing an exciting dynamic where more Australian fintechs are looking for opportunities to enter or expand in Asia."

Deutsche Bank joined its banking peers in launching its first Asia-Pacific innovation lab in Singapore, and will develop ideas with startups for its wealth management business.

Speaking to The Business Times ahead of the launch, Deutsche Bank's Asia-Pacific chief executive officer, Werner Steinmueller, said the move speaks to the new openness that banks have to adopt amid the competition and changing demands.

"There is a new openness in banking where you have to take everyone seriously and move fast," he said.

He added that Asia is proving to be fertile ground for talented startups. "We are very excited about the potential for partnerships here," he said. "Startups want to work with us because we have scale, a global banking network and established infrastructure."

The bank has other innovation labs in Berlin, London, New York and Palo Alto. Singapore's innovation lab is the first of the labs at Deutsche Bank that will be housed within the bank itself.