Coronavirus brings digital banking risks and rewards

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A customer withdrawing cash at an automated teller machine in downtown Yangon, Myanmar, in 2013.
MAY 22, 2020 - 4:25 PM

SOUTH-EAST Asian banking players should ramp up digitalisation during the coronavirus pandemic - but they’ll have to be pickier about clientele, too.

Despite the appeal of capturing under-banked populations in emerging markets, Fitch Ratings warned that both digital-only players and incumbents may have to hone their targeting as “these segments are likely to be the most vulnerable in the face of severe stress in the economy”.

That’s even as safety precautions against the deadly virus have raised the profile of digital banking, compared with higher-risk cash transactions and over-the-counter branch activities.

“Fitch believes that banks will be even more active in pursuing growth through digital channels, with existing branches likely to be further optimised towards higher value-add, cross-selling services,” the credit rating agency said in a report on Friday.

“That said, actual investments in (information technology) are likely to be tempered in the near term as banks look to cut overall costs in the face of significant business uncertainty.”