Week in Review: Candid and open sharing at What’s Next 2017

  • Maybank, a US$10.6 b revenue company, benchmarks against fintech startups
  • Brick&Mortars begin to play for opportunities in digital world, challenging startups


“GREAT event. Thanks for the opportunity.” That was the message I received from one of the sponsors of the third edition of What’s Next: The Business Impact of Disruptive Technology, DNA’s signature event. Focusing on how Brick & Mortar companies, especially large ones, are dealing with digital disruption, the C-suite of speakers (20 of 22 were either CEO/MD, Chief Strategy Officer or Chief Procurement Officer) really shared a great amount with the audience over the 11 sessions of What’s Next.

They were candid and open with their experiences and thoughts with one CEO, NK Tong of Bukit Kiara Properties, even admitting that his company felt like a dinosaur in this fast moving digital era we are moving into. But none were as open as Michael Foong, Maybank Group’s chief strategy officer.

While it’s a widely held belief that banks have been slow to adapt to the new realities of a world going increasingly digital, in actual fact it has been banks and telcos that have been the verticals to adapt quickest to the opportunities and threats of digital disruption. A point noted by Nikolai Dobberstein, Partner and Asia-Pacific head of Communications, Media and Technology at A.T. Kearney, during his talk.

And Foong’s fireside chat with me only reinforced this point. Especially when he said that it was “absolutely unacceptable” to benchmark their speed in responding to market changes against other banks. Maybank now benchmarks itself against fintech players.

It is now looking to zero- or very low revenue companies as the competition it needs to be on par with in terms of speed of introducing products and services. That is a significant change in mindset for a company that chalked up US$10.6 billion (RM44.66 billion) revenue in 2016. Clearly Maybank is not letting its significant revenues lull it into a sense of complacency.

And of course there are challenges, for example with older employees who struggle to understand digital innovation or don’t take seriously the sudden change in consumer preferences for products and services designed with a digital first mindset. But, as a bank that believes experience has a value, Foong shares that Maybank has a programme to upgrade the knowledge of its older staff to help bring them up to speed in understanding digital and the changes it has triggered.

And this allows me the opportunity to invite you to send your middle level managers to a What’s Next: Raise Your Digital Quotient workshop that DNA is organizing together with iTrain Sdn Bhd on Nov 20 & 21. You can get the details of that HRDF claimable workshop here. Besides the dynamic sessions over the two days, you will also hear from the chief digital officer of Celcom, Dave Marrow and Desmond Ng, the COO of Black Box, the big data business of Senheng. It’s going to be a real eye opener of a workshop. Don’t miss it!

Back to What’s Next, speed was a recurring point made by almost all the speakers with changes in consumer behavior and the nature of competition affected by how quickly digital inspired change was creating new opportunities and threats to Brick & Mortar players.

Speaking of opportunities Foong said that Maybank was even looking at how it can play a value add role in the Digital Free Trade Zone. And that is just the right attitude to be taken by any large Brick & Mortar company. Leverage on all the assets they have and see how they can be applied to the digital world and never assume that only startups and global digital companies can capture value in the digital world.

As the conference just ended on Thursday, and there was a lot to absorb, I will write about my key takeaways next Fri, so watch out for that.

Here’s wishing you a restful weekend and a productive week after.

Editor’s Picks:

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Comeback kid BlackBerry aims high but will it succeed?

PasarTap collaborates with state government to launch in Penang

Shopback secures US$25mil funding

Motorola rolls out two new value-for-money handsets

IDC recognises significant Indonesian market disruptors

High hopes on DFTZ to boost Malaysia’s cross-border trade


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