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StarHub, OCBC partner up in S$6m deal to capture customers

October 9th, 2017 | by Alfred Siew
StarHub, OCBC partner up in S$6m deal to capture customers
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OCBC Bank group CEO Samuel Tsien (left) and StarHub CEO Tan Tong Hai announce a partnership promising better deals for customers, at OCBC Bank’s orchardgateway branch on Oct 9, 2017. PHOTO: OCBC Handout

There was a time when banks and telecom operators viewed each other with suspicion. Some telcos have even got banking licenses, while banks always believed the customers were theirs not to share.

Now with both industries facing disruption, some are more than happy to work together.

That was probably the thinking behind StarHub and OCBC Bank coming together today to focus on selling new products and services to woo exsiting and new customers.

They will spend S$6 million in the next 12 months to find ways to use data analytics, the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) to better anticipate what users want and provide special deals for them.

Though the details of the agreement are still sketchy, StarHub chief executive officer Tan Tong Hai said the aim is to discover what services customers might want before they seek them out.

When a customer buys plane tickets with his OCBC credit card, he can be provided exclusive deals for insurance coverage. Before he travels, he can be prompted to roam on StarHub. The promise is a “frictionless” experience to make life easier.

In future, more such services, even co-working spaces, can be bought with special deals cut through partnerships with other suppliers in the transport, medical, retail and real estate sectors, say the two companies.

Ching Wei Hong, OCBC’s chief operating officer, told reporters that the partnership is a “monogamous” one, so it would not include rivals from the banking and telecom sectors.

However, he said it would sign up other companies in sectors where consumers are seeking better offers. These special deals will only be available to those with an account with OCBC and a subscription with StarHub, he clarified.

What is clear is that the bank and telco both want to be the go-to company for consumers’ every need. This means going beyond providing basic services, a field that new players are increasingly encroaching on.

For banks, the emergence of peer-to-peer payment systems and crypto-currency has led to some existential soul searching never seen before in a once-unmovable industry.

For telcos, even the most prized content is becoming commoditised. Facebook could be bidding for the English Premier League broadcast rights, while over-the-top players such as Netflix have challenged the hold they once had over consumers.

What both banks and telcos have are troves of consumer data. They know their customers inside-out, whether it comes down to spending patterns or Web surfing habits.

What are people searching for when they are at a specific mall, for example? How can their needs be fulfilled on the fly, with a simple transaction on their phones? Knowing this can help both a bank and telco target customers better.

StarHub’s Tan said consumers would ultimately decide if they want to accept a good deal by letting their bank and telco know more about themselves. Consent is key, he stressed.

The question for consumers, then, is whether they would give up a bit of privacy for a better experience. Instead of going a la carte, they can order a special “set meal” if they are with both StarHub and OCBC.

Perhaps the most bankable thing for these two players is trust. Unlike a new startup, a bank and a telco will command more trust from users, especially when it comes to important data.

The industry players will hope that goodwill built over the years will remain unchanged, even as their business models are turned upside down. It will be a key differentiator in years to come.

 

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