Liew Nam Soon joins panel of judges at Asian Banking & Finance Awards 2021

For EY's Asean Regional Managing Partner, digital transformation is not an option today, but a necessity that has been accelerated by the pandemic.

Nam Soon is currently EY's Asean Regional Managing Partner. He is responsible for business performance and client services in assurance, consulting, tax, strategy, and transactions business with approximately 18,000 people across 14 geographic markets in the EY ASEAN Region. Before this, he was EY Asian Markets Managing Partner and EY Asean Financial Services Managing Partner, working with a number of the most significant financial services institutions across Asia.  

Nam Soon has over 30 years of consulting and industry experience and has worked extensively in retail, SMEs, private, corporate, and investment banking, asset management, insurance, private equity, and FinTech. 

In recent years, he has led EY teams in helping clients digitally transform their businesses, building ecosystems and alliances across different industry sectors. He is also a Board advisor to several EY clients. 

This versatility also extends to his activities outside work. Nam Soon is into running, swimming, biking, yoga, and martial arts. He also enjoys playing and watching football with his son, and they are both learning to play the drums during the pandemic. 

As one of the judges at Asian Banking & Finance Awards 2021, he shares some of his vital insights about leveraging digital data, sustainability, opportunities during and after the pandemic, the epitome of a well-digitised company, and balancing financial regulations with innovation. 

What do you think is your biggest contribution to your industry? Or what do you aspire to contribute to your industry?

Most of my 30-year experience has been in the Financial Services and Technology sectors. What is exciting to me now is in my current role as EY ASEAN Regional Managing Partner, I can work not just in Financial Services, but across other sectors like government, consumer, technology, telco, media, healthcare, energy, and real estate. This is important as we see industry convergence; non-Financial Services companies securing digital banking licenses and ecosystem platform partnerships. The transformation of the Financial Services industry is both driven internally but also externally by these external market and regulatory changes. I am energised every single day looking at opportunities to bring EY's knowledge and capabilities across different sectors to our clients to drive value creation and innovation.        

Digital transformation has been getting the spotlight lately. Should all banks jump on this bandwagon? How can a bank know if it's well-equipped and ready to undergo digital transformation?

It is not an option for banks to not digitally transform themselves and this need has been accelerated by the pandemic, with changing customer preferences and increased comfort with digital products and services. Many banks are already at different stages of digitalisation and actively benchmarking themselves against market competition, including what the new entrants are doing.

In your opinion, what are the most important traits that a business should have to survive the pandemic's challenges? And which traits should they avoid?

At EY, we advise our clients to look at "Now, Next and Beyond' by being agile and pivoting to new market opportunities, especially looking at leveraging digital and data. The other big topic that is front and centre apart from digital is sustainability and long-term value. We are working with several clients on "Winning at the Turn", relooking at customer acquisition, operating model changes, digital transformation, upskilling of talent so that they can be well-positioned to capitalize when borders reopen and economies recover. 

As evident from the previous crisis, the companies that capitalize on this once-in-a-generation opportunity to take advantage of the expected growth in post-COVID recovery, take advantage of opportunities when others only look at risks, would be able to break away from competition and ride the recovery wave.   

Aside from providing payments services, where are the new opportunities for banks during and after COVID-19? 

Beyond payments, opportunities arise in lending, wealth management, and insurance abound. We have seen both incumbents and new entrants focus on leveraging digital and data to deliver these products and services. Additionally, there is also an increasingly more platform ecosystem that caters to customers' overall financial needs.  

What does a well-digitised company look like? And how can companies achieve that? 

A well-digitised company looks at digitalisation as end to end and is a complete business transformation from front to back and also with customers and ecosystem partners. When they redesign and implement operating models, they are focused on the customer journey end to end, innovative use cases that deliver real benefits and also how the company's internal processes are digitised - in other words, a holistic view of digitalisation.  

What cutting-edge regulations should finance leaders in banking keep track of and how does that impact their road to digitisation? 

Regulators always have to balance innovation with regulation to manage risks to the financial systems. The rapid growth of Fintech has compelled financial regulators to evolve regulations to address potential risks to the overall financial system. A new balance is now being sought and one can look at the recent changes in regulations in China as an example. Regulations on credit, lending models that are subject to systemic risks. As new products are developed, regulators will enforce disclosure standards and price comparability. How data is best utilised and the governance around that will become incorporated into key considerations of fund-raising and risk-sharing. Also, financial education becomes more important so that customers can make informed financial decisions.

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