One of the tools that we invested in to elevate employee experience was the roll-out of a generative artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot to our employees globally in November 2023. This was a first by a Singapore bank.

The chatbot, OCBC GPT, can be used to help with writing, research and ideation. The feedback from our people has been positive. They have reported productivity boosts of about 50%.

On the customer front, we worked closely with our consumer banking team to launch a fully digital account opening process for consumers in our core markets who are relocating to Singapore.

Individuals in Hong Kong SAR, Indonesia, Malaysia and Mainland China who plan to relocate to Singapore can now open Singapore dollar and multi-currency accounts remotely on the OCBC Digital app, within minutes.

This expedites the entire relocation process for them since a bank account facilitates two other key administrative arrangements – salary crediting and securing of accommodation.

2023 also marked the commencement of Phase 2 of our seven-year digital core roadmap which began in 2019. Over $300 million will be invested between 2023 and 2025 to continue the modernisation of our technology architecture. This further builds on the $250 million invested in Phase 1 (2019 to 2022).

The earlier investment to refresh our key channel systems across our markets enabled the quicker roll-out of digital features and sharpened our personalisation capabilities via machine learning and AI.

Tapping on emerging technologies

Generative AI has been a game-changer in the emerging technologies space and we see it as a long-term investment. Our intent is to embed it in our processes and systems.

Other than OCBC GPT, we deployed several generative AI productivity tools in 2023. One of them is OCBC Wingman – a coding assistant built internally – which helps our developers to auto generate, debug and improve computer codes.

Leveraging open source software, we were able to build and deploy OCBC Wingman in just two weeks. Since its launch in May 2023, productivity boosts of about 20% have been reported. As a result, the bank has also been able to deploy new features with significant speed, and improve time-to-market for new digital solutions.

Ultimately, the productivity gains arising from the deployment of these generative AI tools free up employees’ time and enable them to deliver better services for our customers.

Apart from generative AI, we continue to focus on predictive AI. Around 4 million decisions are made in the Bank with the help of AI every day. These decisions help in managing risks, optimising operational efficiency and improvement of customer service. This figure is expected to more than double, to 10 million, within the next two years. We will continue to invest and tap on this technology for the benefit of our customers and employees.

Exploring fast-moving, emerging technologies like the metaverse, blockchain and digital assets are on our agenda as well.

In April 2023, OCBCx65Chulia – our metaverse platform in Decentraland – was launched. Named after the address of the Bank’s Singapore headquarters on Chulia Street, the virtual reality platform allows visitors to learn about OCBC’s historical milestones along with the latest banking products and services. They can open a bank account and apply for a credit card through instant access to the Bank’s website from OCBCx65Chulia.

It is important that we embrace an experimental mindset in today’s fast evolving technology landscape. Often, the real potential of emerging platforms and technologies such as the metaverse are not obvious in the early stages. However, testing them at this juncture allows us to better understand these technologies and develop the relevant skills to ensure that we are ahead of our peers in reaping the dividends when these technologies do take off.

We also supported innovative pilots with the authorities to expand and develop capabilities in asset tokenisation initiatives that leverage blockchain. These pilots include the Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) and Purpose Bound Money (PBM). CBDCs enable instantaneous interbank settlement while PBM allows issuers to set specific conditions on how it is used. These digital money trials open up new possibilities and we are watching this space closely.

Investing in people and the environment

Investing in technology is but one piece of the puzzle to be future-ready. The way we approach and implement these investments, and bring our employees along the journey, are equally important.

We have streamlined more than 1,500 processes to enhance operational efficiency over the past year. An example is what we termed the “Unified Experience”, which connects the front, middle and support functions by eliminating emails and excessive workflows. Disparate processes slow down teams. By enabling teams to work more seamlessly, we can enhance responsiveness to our customers.

These investments will yield approximately a reduction of 10,000 tonnes of carbon emissions by 2025. This is equivalent to removing close to 10,000 cars from the road.

Another aspect to our operations that we have been focused on is in lowering our carbon footprint. While we have achieved carbon neutrality from 2022, we remain committed to advancing operational decarbonisation. This involves prioritising the deployment of sustainable technologies to optimise the energy efficiency of our buildings.

Solar panels have been installed in our offices across the region – in Mainland China, Singapore and Indonesia – and we have increased the use of renewable energy sources where feasible. A total of 27,000 square feet of solar panels have been deployed, leading to significant electricity savings.

While we are guided by the drive to accelerate our own decarbonisation efforts, there is a limit to what we can achieve alone. Hence, we seek out partnerships with industry players to uplift the ecosystem and deliver more long-term outcomes.

It is with this in mind that we jointly launched the SGBC-OCBC Built Environment Decarbonisation Challenge with the Singapore Green Building Council to identify and support innovative technology solutions to decarbonise the built environment. More than 70 companies submitted proposals showcasing solutions that prioritise carbon abatement and energy efficiency in buildings while considering costeffectiveness and practicality in terms of deployment and maintenance. Shortlisted solutions will be piloted at selected OCBC buildings, with the possibility of implementing them at all OCBC buildings if feasible.

Looking ahead to 2024, we are committed to advancing our investments in technology, our people and the environment.

Improving the employee and customer experience will remain a key priority and we will maintain a forward-thinking approach to stay at the forefront of technological advancements. This will enable us to deliver exceptional financial services and products to our customers, so they can pursue and realise their aspirations.

Our metaverse, OCBCx65Chulia, was launched as an interactive virtual platform for our younger audience.