Saturday, 05 December 2020

China Merchants Bank is best retail bank amid strong competition from UAE, India and Singapore

By Janine Marie Crisanto

New performance benchmarks shaped by COVID-19 and digital transformation reshuffle best retail banks ranking in 2020

  • Business models of financial institutions are shifting towards platforms and ecosystems
  • Stronger customer value propositions are created through big data capabilities 
  • Agility of banks are tested in navigating the COVID-19 pandemic

Now more than ever, the definition of a retail financial institution has been dramatically altered by ongoing digital transformation and rapidly changing customer behaviour amid the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In line with the industry transformation, the evaluation scorecard for International Excellence in Retail Financial Services Awards has evolved over the years. In the 19th annual assessment of the Best Retail Banks in Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa, greater weight was given to strategy and leadership. Digital journey was also taken into consideration as banks built ecosystems and moved towards open banking to incorporate third-party players. In addition, as customer engagement has become an important priority for retail players across various digital touchpoints and ecosystems, the inaugural BankQuality Consumer Survey and Ranking was launched to capture the voice of the consumers. In addition to rating the experience and satisfaction with their main retail banks, respondents to the survey were also asked about how their main banks helped them and their community during COVID-19. 

The Best Retail Banks in 2020 ranking includes 86 institutions from 19 markets across the region. This year’s leader is China Merchants Bank (CMB). The bank has been a strong regional contender for best retail bank in the past years. It placed second in 2019 and first in 2018. In 2020, CMB showcased a strong competitive advantage by scaling its digital platforms such as CMB Life App. It also utilised emerging technologies that resulted in strong financial position, market growth and improved customer experience.This year banks climbed up the rankings as they reaped the benefits of digital initiatives. For instance, Chinese financial institutions have made strides in building ecosystems which have driven sales capabilities and allowed them to enhance customer engagement.

Click here to view the full Best Retail Banks in 2020 ranking.

Cultivation of platforms and ecosystems 

Digital has always been on top of the agenda for financial institutions for many years now. However, there has been a more prominent shift in the digital journey of banks – from digital as service offerings and business generators back in 2010, to banks becoming digital platforms with ecosystems today. Some of the top banks in this area come from China. Bank of Beijing accelerated the construction of smart finance by launching more than 50 high-frequency business functions for its customers through artificial intelligence. Ping An Group has showed scale by creating a virtual cycle and developing customer affinity across five major industries including financial services, healthcare, auto services, real estate services and Smart City solutions.

India’s ICICI Bank improved its ranking this year as it exhibited a strong ecosystem proposition by launching digital banking services and over 250 APIs across growing online ecosystems such as food, travel, logistics, education, payments and insurance. Meanwhile, Thailand’s Kasikornbank consistently grew its digitally active customer base and entered strategic partnerships with Grab, Lazada, Central JD’s Dolfin, and Line Corporation.

Personalised customer experience

Personalisation emerged as a key focus in this year’s programme with top players such as Emirates NBD, China Merchants Bank, and CTBC Bank showcasing the ability to provide tailored and insight-driven customer experiences.  Emirates NBD, which improved its ranking over the years, launched customer-centric solutions. These included instant mobile digital account opening, revamped Smart Pass soft-token authentication, voice banking on Alexa and converted over 55% of its branch network disable-friendly with assistive technologies. Meanwhile, CMB created its Wind Bell System platform for monitoring and managing retail customers' experience based on customer evaluation data, complaint data, business operation data and system event-tracking data. CTBC, last year’s best retail bank, continued to strengthen its CTBC Line platform to embed financial services in customers’ lifestyle scenarios. 

COVID-19 has reoriented corporate strategies 

Banks also had to show agility in navigating the global health crisis. CMB in particular deployed online banking and credit risk management systems to process loan applications to facilitate remote and contactless transactions during the pandemic. It also issued $423.6 million (RMB3 billion) through the China Inter-bank Bond Market (CIBM) to finance corporations and institutions working on treatment against the virus. It also donated $28.2 million (RMB 200 million) to philanthropic foundations in Wuhan immediately after the city was locked down. Citibank’s relief efforts have exceeded $65 million at a global level. Standard Chartered Bank established a $50 million COVID-19 Global Charitable Fund.

About the ranking

The ranking is the result of The Asian Banker International Excellence in Retail Financial Services Programme, the most rigorous, prestigious and transparent audit programme for consumer banking anywhere in the world. The assessment runs from January to March every year and is based on our market-leading balanced scorecard methodology. The full ranking can be viewed at .



Keywords: Digital Banking Digital Platforms
Institution: China Merchants Bank, Bank Of Beijing, Ping An Group, ICICI Bank, Kasikornbank, Grab, Lazada, Line Corporation, Emirates NBD
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