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Innovation – Building the momentum for growth

Views from Justin Ong, Deloitte Malaysia Innovation Leader

KUALA LUMPUR, 4 August 2020 – Breakthroughs come from everywhere these days: in every industry, in multinationals and start-ups, in back office functions and in skunkworks labs. Innovation is fast becoming everyone's responsibility.

How do you build an innovative culture? Justin Ong, a financial services expert shares his thoughts on how being innovative can help transform disruption into lasting value.

1.       What excites you most about Innovation?

Malaysia is not the biggest in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), but we do have tokens of strength and niche areas that we play extremely well and are leaders in— for instance, in Islamic finance, manufacturing, oil and gas, as well as electronics.

In recent years, the government in Malaysia has put a strong focus in driving the innovation mandate, setting up the Malaysia Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC) and creating new initiatives under the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA). The goal is to recognise our niche and to continue to develop solutions and technologies to augment our strengths and differentiate ourselves from the other countries in the region. As a country, we are certainly on the right path and I am very excited for that.

2.       Have you come across any innovation that was interesting lately?

I am particularly interested in solutions that solves a unique problem or challenge. To me, it is about how creative you are in solving complex issues, with or without technology. When I was at the Fintech Festival in Singapore last year, I came across a Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) enabled retail solution. It was innovative because it provides a very different, yet efficient retail experience. As a customer, you only need to walk into the store, grab the item you want and leave. From personal authentication to payment channels, everything is set up through RFID, making it a very smooth retail experience.

Another solution that piqued my interest was using blockchain to encrypt university certifications. It makes HR processes for new hires incredibly efficient as you no longer require people to manually verify the documents, freeing them up for other responsibilities.

3.       Talking about fintech, what is the state of digital banking among the big players in the financial services industry now?

In the financial innovation landscape, digital banking has definitely been one of the hottest topics. That said, digital banking is but one of the key pillars of the big picture that is financial innovation. There are also talks of open APIs, and of course, blockchain and cryptocurrencies to complete the pillars of financial innovation. As important as it is for banks to digitalise their services, large banks have other options and methods of providing their services to customers too.

Singapore may be seen as the innovation hub in Southeast Asia, but it has only just begun the process of rolling out their digital banking licenses which will be awarded at the end of this year. We talk a lot about financial inclusion and in my opinion, non-financial players benefit a lot more from using digital banking as a ticket into the financial services space to serve the underserved market.

It is certainly a bit of a race to lead this area, with Hong Kong and Singapore vying to be at the top. In Malaysia, we are at the exposure draft stage and will most likely only finalise new digital banking regime by of the end of the year.  It will definitely be exciting to see what 2021 will bring!

4.       With a promising financial innovation ecosystem in Malaysia, has Deloitte Malaysia partnered with banks or fintech startups on any projects or initiatives?

Yes! We have acted as an intermediary, linking fintech players with conglomerates to form meaningful partnerships. There is a lot of buzz in Malaysia’s financial industry at the moment and it is important to capitalise on it. In particular, we have been seeing a lot of excitement from non-banks looking to dip their toes into the industry, and we have been assisting them to form consortiums or partnerships with financial institutions, as regulators in Malaysia are only offering a limited number of licenses for digital banking.

5.       What are the innovation goals for Deloitte in Malaysia?

Specifically in Malaysia, one of the focuses we have is cross-selling, to which we have to find out where we can collaborate among the various business units and get ourselves into advantageous positions and leverage the great relationships that we already have.

Assisting that goal is the Innovation Playbook that we recently launched in Malaysia. The Playbook showcases different tools and expertise from different business units and forms a complete picture of our services for our clients.

We are also big on serving our social agenda through innovation. We take corporate social responsibility seriously and it is definitely part of our innovation mandate here in Malaysia. At Deloitte IMPACT Day (an initiative aimed at helping society through pro bono, knowledge sharing, and traditional volunteering activities) last year, we launched a dashboard that showcases hotspots for criminal activity through data analytics. In addition to that, the dashboard is also able to track the sort of crime that had happened.

6.       Interesting! How do you see Deloitte moving into a more asset-enabled business model?

Although we have some really good tools and assets, it is important to recognise that we are first and foremost a professional services firm. We must recognise our strengths and I believe that our biggest asset will always be our strong relationships with clients.

Equally important is building our own tools, and to be effective, we need to be more coordinated in our efforts. Collaboration is key. We have many good tools and products built by our global network of businesses. By putting together our efforts and communicating the capabilities that we have, we can avoid creating similar products and assets that could have just been repurposed from one market for another.

7.       What does innovation mean to you personally?

Personally, innovation is A-B-C.

Acquisitive mindset, or perhaps another way to put it is to have a growth mindset. The world is constantly changing around us and we cannot afford to be complacent and content with our current capabilities. We should always aim to be better than we were yesterday.

Be bold when making decisions and encourage our talents to step out from their comfort zones. Innovation is top-down and we need to provide our talents a platform to do things that can make a difference.

Be collaborative and leverage our talents across the board to package a complete and comprehensive solution for our clients. We have a very strong multi-disciplinary model and if we play to our strengths, I have no doubt that we will definitely be able to differentiate ourselves from the competition.

The views and opinions expressed are those of Justin Ong, Deloitte Malaysia Innovation Leader and Risk Advisory Executive Director, and do not necessarily reflect Deloitte’s view.


Samantha Yong
Deloitte Malaysia
Marketing & Communications
Tel: +603 7624 3502

Angelyn Ng
Deloitte Malaysia
Marketing & Communications
Tel: +603 7610 8107

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