How do you assess RHB Banking Group's contribution to the economic development of Malaysia?
The origins of RHB trace back almost a century, to Malaya's first local bank. Since then, we have evolved and adapted to the changing economic landscape in order to remain relevant, which has resulted in the RHB we know today. From a business point of view, we have also been supporting the broad base of economic sectors in Malaysia. In the early 20th century, we financed tin mining operations in the country, and while these have ceased to exist, we have exposure to all of the key sectors that form Malaysia's economy.
Could you elaborate on the vision behind FIT22 and its main objectives?
In January 2018, RHB launched its five-year strategic roadmap known as FIT22. Comprised of 22 initiatives, FIT22 is designed to achieve our 2022 aspiration, which is to be among the top-three banks in Malaysia in terms of performance. Anchored on three strategic themes, first we want to strengthen Malaysia as our core, focusing on selected segments, as 90% of our income still comes from Malaysia. Second, we will be strategic in where we compete overseas. RHB has presence in nine ASEAN countries as well as in Hong Kong. In many of these countries, we will spend our limited resources wisely to compete in selected business areas. Third, we need to think about innovation and people's readiness to meet skills of the future. FIT stands for Funding the Group's journey, Investing in technological and digital initiatives with a medium-term horizon, and Transforming the organization by building a winning operating model that prioritizes customer journeys, internal agility, and digital enablement. FIT22 is an umbrella for the 22 key initiatives that are targeted to propel RHB to be a leading financial services player.
How do you assess the impact of fintech on the banking industry in Malaysia?
Fintech has emerged from the need to meet what the customer wants. In a way, RHB is a fintech and we also partner with fintech companies that can add value to our offerings. We have partnerships with several fintech companies, such as Funding Societies, a P2P platform through which SMEs in Malaysia can obtain small loans. We have also partnered with RinggitPlus for aggregation of personal finance. We will continue to invest in latest tech, though fintech will be driven by customers.
How do you plan to further develop RHB's operations across the ASEAN markets?
In some ASEAN markets, we offer commercial banking, investment banking, securities, and asset management products and services. Singapore and Thailand are examples of markets where we are able to provide a holistic value proposition. In Indonesia, we are only involved in securities and asset management as we do not have the retail reach, and therefore we have to be more reliant on digital brokering. The key is to identify where we can fight and where our capital can generate the right return.
How do you assess the 2019 budget in light of the need of regaining investor and consumer confidence?
The budget is seen in a longer timeframe context as it is about resetting the fundamentals. The three anchors are reducing Malaysia's high debt level, enhancing private-sector participation, and addressing the bottom 40% of households. In 2019, the fiscal deficit will be higher but the government is committed to reducing it. Notably, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Housing has launched the MYR1-billion (USD240 million) Affordable Housing Fund, and through this scheme, RHB and four other lenders will extend credit to first-time home buyers. Malaysia's fundamentals remain strong, as reflected by continued current account surplus, commendable foreign exchange reserves, and low unemployment rate.