Lim Ann Liat, a managing director in UOB’s Group Technology and Operations, is driven by two passions in his job: automation and data analytics. He is harnessing the power of both to optimise the way the Bank serves its customers and to make banking simpler, safer and smarter.
In the last year, UOB has made great strides in automation. It set up a new team to spearhead its automation priorities, helping it to automate 13 new processes and to save S$1.3m in annual costs. This includes digitalising manual internal requests within the Bank to make it easier to track workflow.
“This improves our staff productivity because requests can be turned around faster without paper-based work. Automation improves the overall experience for both employees and customers,” says Lim.
In addition to automation, UOB’s ability to make the most of its data has also been greatly enhanced by its investment in a consolidated secure data warehouse for the whole bank, says Lim.
“This enables the Bank to analyse huge amounts of data to benefit our customers. We can go far beyond, for example, using data for a monthly compliance report,” says Lim. “We can analyse data to identify patterns at the lowest granular level for everything that is important for the business. UOB TMRW, our digital banking app, is powered by data analytics, giving us the ability to personalise the customer experience – for example by sharing insights on how customers get more out of their savings and recommending tailored shopping deals,” Lim adds.
Roles in automation vs data analytics
There is an increasing focus for talents in automation and data analytics, however the jobs roles in these two areas are “very different” from each other when it comes to the skills and experience needed, says Lim.
When it comes to hiring for automation roles, UOB has “a lot more latitude” as it typically looks for junior candidates who do not necessarily have automation or banking experience. The Bank trains these employees to use automation software, for instance, which tend to be generic and do not require specialised knowledge.
“The great thing about an automation role at UOB is that our people work on projects across departments. For one project you might be working in retail banking, then for the next one you move to wholesale banking. That is a fantastic way to build up broad knowledge as a technologist who is new to the financial sector,” says Lim.
For data analytics roles, UOB generally hires more experienced candidates and it helps to have domain exposure to the banking sector, says Lim.
However, regardless of the role, cultural fit and having soft skills are critical. “It is about your attitude as well as your aptitude. Whether you know C++ or Java isn’t that important because knowing one programing language means you can easily pick up another,” says Lim. “We look for people who share our core values. We like our technologists to be enterprising and to be able to think outside the box. Our tech employees thrive when they’re working out new ways to solve a problem,” he adds.
Diverse opportunities to create change
Lim’s own job involves leading the tech teams that support UOB’s global markets business and also its enterprise functions, including finance, human resources, and risk. “I partner with the business on their change agenda to help them work towards their goals and give them the technology they need,” he explains.
The enterprise side of his role is very diverse. He has colleagues focused on different aspects of risk management (e.g. operational, credit and market risk), while other technologists support the finance team on issues such as management accounting and regulatory reporting. “Our work in risk can involve fraud management – for example, sifting through the data using machine learning, so that we can detect potential fraud,” says Lim.
Lim says his role at UOB is also diverse in terms of technology and the stakeholders he deals with. “I have exposure to the breath of the bank. As technologists, we play a crucial role in UOB’s varied business agenda. This keeps me on my toes and motivates me,” he says.
All tech jobs at UOB are getting more innovative as the bank steps up its use of technologies, says Lim. “We’re becoming nimbler in our development through tech such as DevOps and APIs, which enable us to streamline and to speed up our changes and deliver a better customer experience. If someone is taking out a loan for a vehicle, for example, we have an almost instantaneous online approval process,” he adds.
Customer expectations of UOB have risen as a result. “We’re engaging with customers digitally more so than ever,” says Lim. “As technologists, we need to keep on innovating and coming up with interesting ideas that continue to meet our customers’ changing expectations of banking. Our development is happening at a much faster rate these days, which is making technology jobs here at UOB even more exciting.”