Guest Column

Accounts Payable Teams in Southeast Asia should Pioneer with Automation against Fraud


Greg Crowl | 11 November 2022

Although fraud is not a new phenomenon, organizations will need to be equipped to identify and prevent fraud.

Every organization’s primary aim is to be profitable – and no fault should be seen in that. But what they want to stray away is the dirty side of money. That would be the “F” word in the business world: fraud.  

Although fraud is not a new phenomenon, organizations will need to be equipped to identify and prevent fraud. In fact, the pendulum seems to be swinging the other way, with the scales tipping further in the favor of fraudsters. Financial criminals have been sharpening their skills and cunningly preying on unsecured companies as well as their employees, although organizations have been improving their fraud defense. 

The prolonged pandemic hasn’t helped the situation. In PwC’s Global Economic Crime and Fraud Survey 2020, 42 percent of Singapore-based organizations were have fallen victim to fraud over 24 months, of which 23 percent suffered a cumulative loss of more than US 50 million to fraud, higher than the global level at 13 percent. Singapore’s prominent positioning as the financial hub of Southeast Asia is likely a key driver of the growing reported economic crime rate.

The common type of frauds that are rising in ASEAN markets, among an array of violations, are asset misappropriations, misleading financial statements, and resume fraud. These frequent events of frauds are happening due to poor fraud awareness and minimal standards of digital literacy. Statistics from CyberSource showed that fraud cost Southeast Asia at least 1.6 percent of digital revenue, with Indonesia leading at 3.2 percent.

No company wants to be duped by fraudsters, but even trillion-dollar companies do falter. Amazon, the benchmark of running a successful business, was defrauded of US 19 million. Facebook and Google were also scammed of US 100 million by forged invoices sent through phishing email scams. 

Whether it’s a small or medium enterprise (SME) or a multinational corporation (MNC), fraudsters are targeting them, which means defenses in an organization are required to be current.  For instance, financial institutions have to comply with complex and ever-changing regulations set by the government. Add in the ongoing customer life-cycle transformation, and protecting the business from fraudulent activity seems more challenging than ever. 

Fortunately, there are steps organizations can take to fight back against fraud and meet “know your customer” (KYC) requirements. Fraud detection and prevention has, for the longest time, been based on a three-pronged approach comprised of people, processes and technology. While all three elements are still essential, the increased complexity of fraud scams demands a greater reliance on the technology portion. People still play an important role, but it’s become increasingly difficult for the human eye to spot fraud given how sophisticated scams have become. Processes aren’t going to disappear either, but their key role is to connect people and technology in a way that makes them stronger together than when used alone. 

Unlike people, technology has evolved—so it can do a better job of keeping up with the advances in fraudulent activity. New techniques are available, making it the best choice to lead the charge. But where do you start?

Accounts Payable: Your Best Defense against Fraud

Accounts Payable (AP) staff relying on old tricks are defenseless against more complex fraud schemes. Intelligent AP automation is a modern weapon financial organization can use to keep fraud at bay. AP automation transforms accounts payable, eliminating the errors associated with manual work and enabling AP staff to “better support compliance and risk management teams in enforcing policies, identifying potential red flags, and escalating issues internally.” AP automation “reduces the risk of fraud and increases compliance by employing standards for handling expectations and workflows.”

Many organizations are beginning to see the benefit of investing in technologies and other resources to fight fraud, with 40 percent of respondents to PwC’s global survey stating they plan to increase their spend on fraud prevention over the next two years. The report also notes this is a smart choice since “there is a clear link between fraud prevention investments made upfront and reduced costs when a fraud strikes.” Additionally, companies using tools such as artificial intelligence are seeing value in the battle against fraud when the tools are properly implemented. For organizations considering an AP automation solution, it’s important to understand what makes this weapon valuable and how it can help fight fraud. 

Asia Pacific financial institutions are prepared to invest millions in fraud prevention according to a GBG report titled “Future-proofing Fraud Prevention in Digital Channels: APAC FI Study”. An estimated budget of US 83.3 million will be used by financial institutions to purchase the latest technology to tackle fraud till 2021. 57 percent of APAC financial institutions are claiming they’re working towards upgrading fraud prevention infrastructure while 50 percent have already made investments for digital onboarding fraud solutions, including Thailand and Indonesia with the biggest fraud budgets at US 95.4 million and US 88.9 million respectively.

AP Automation Arsenal: A WMD to Fight Fraud

A strong defense against fraudulent activity consists of multiple technologies that make an AP automation solution truly intelligent. To begin with, automated invoice processing allows time to be saved and eradicates human errors. Suppliers can send their invoices in the format of their choice through multi-channel invoice capture. Artificial intelligence technology captures and analyzes invoices coming in, determines the document layout, and extracts the required information. An electronic archive of invoices, including other financial documents, is available thanks to workflow and imaging solutions. Process orchestration automatically sends exceptions to human AP employees for review and approval. 

The technology also creates a document ownership trail, tracking the actions and handoffs between human and digital workers. Some intelligent AP automation solutions from providers have intelligence built in. They can even automatically detect items to extract from an invoice and whether pay slips have been manipulated—an important weapon for fraud detection. Intelligent automation can also be applied to onboarding suppliers, with automatic validation of key information like addresses and tax data. 

With automation technology in place, AP teams will be aware of common human errors like invoice fraud or duplicate payments. Additionally, unfamiliar vendors sending fake invoices will be identified as a red flag based on the AP staff guidelines. If an invoice states payment above the agreed amount, the automation system will trip for a review. It’s similar for invoices from new vendors or when the invoice amount doesn’t match the associated purchase order (PO). Automation can also verify whether invoices match up with the goods ordered or received. 

Advanced analytics can identify changes in vendor behaviors which may be a cause for concern, and third-party sources can be integrated to verify the validity and authenticity of new suppliers and vendors. With invoices being automated, AP staff have extra time to examine other scandalous events. Traces of possible fraud can also be detected by staff with audit trails.

The battle against fraud continues to morph as scammers become more mature. At the front lines are AP teams serving as your best defense against financial crimes. Don’t send them into combat unarmed. With intelligent AP automation technology, AP staff can work (and fight) like tomorrow, today. 

How to Cope with Burnout: Advice From The Experts


By Denisse Garcia, first published on Porch | 27 October 2022

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Life can be stressful, and stress can rapidly turn into burnout. If you’ve ever felt extreme mental and physical exhaustion and overwhelmed by the pressure to perform your daily tasks, you may have experienced burnout. 

Finding the right balance between work and life is not an easy challenge, but it’s not impossible. Whether you are or a loved one is struggling, the following advice from experts will help you extinguish burnout before it’s too late. Qinthara Fasya, Assistant Editor from DigitalCFO Asia shares her insights on preventing burnout when remote working.

Which healthy habits can help us prevent burnout? and Which healthy habits can help us overcome burnout?

After interviewing dozens of functional medicine practitioners through our work at WebFMD, including some with expertise in recovering from burnout, we have learned how much of an impact lifestyle can have on the prevention of and recovery from this common, yet devastating condition.

Burnout occurs when you lose your excitement for life, you find yourself just going through the motions day-to-day. You feel like nothing matters, nothing is exciting, and there is no real reason to get out of bed in the morning.

The way to prevent and even reverse burnout is to find your creativity and zest for life again. Some of the functional medicine experts we have worked with recommend three ways to tap into your energetic spring again: regular reflection, daily play, and learning how to enter the creative flow state in any situation.

Reflection helps you identify aspects of your life where burnout is likely or has already occurred. It is also an opportunity to practice gratitude for what is going well, one of the best ways to prevent burnout. When you are busy being grateful, your perspective shifts. Gratitude leads to happiness with the present, rather than always reaching for more, which eventually leads to burnout.

The second aspects are play and creativity – these go hand in hand. Play is simply daily free time, even just 15-20 minutes, where you enjoy a hobby or do something fun for the sake of fun.

The time spent in play is where your creativity springs from, it gives you the mental and emotional space to enter the flow state, to tap into your creative power that is always there. When you give yourself time to unleash your creativity through play, you become more resilient emotionally, which bleeds into every aspect of your life.

While these three simple changes can get you started on the path to recovery, it’s important to remember you don’t have to take this journey alone. Speaking to a professional can help you get there faster. Having the right guide can help you regain your mental, physical, and spiritual health, so you can find your joy again.

– Amir Ginsebrg at WebFMD

Meditation can be a fantastic tool to use when you’re recovering or looking to prevent burnout, and is a very accessible practice that anyone can try. There are many different types of meditation, but one that can be very helpful in this situation is loving-kindness meditation, which aims to enhance feelings of compassion and love for others. Because one component of burnout is a feeling of depersonalization, or feeling disconnected from life, this form of meditation can be a great choice to help you reconnect with your emotions. In fact, there have been studies showing that a compassion-focused meditation practice helped people recover from burnout and improved their wellness.

Social connection is also vital when it comes to burnout. When people experience burnout, they often withdraw socially and become more isolated. Reaching out to others who you trust is therefore extremely important. They can remind you of your own positive qualities, which helps you deal with the burnout-induced feelings of low self-worth. You can then reconnect with positive emotions like joy and gratitude. Seek support from friends and family, instead of trying to go through this alone. Doing so will only strengthen your long-term bonds with these people, which will continue to support your health and well-being in the future.

Burnout is complex, and every person is different. Your recovery plan will likely include more than these two techniques, but these are essential components that can both help prevent and support your recovery from burnout, not to mention, enhance your quality of life for many years to come.

One more thing to consider about burnout. Burnout not only sucks the enjoyment out of your days, it can even rob you of years of healthy life. A number of studies have shown that burnout causes the telomeres at the end of your chromosomes to shorten more rapidly, meaning that it increases the rate of biological aging. If you want to live a long and healthy life, it’s essential to recognize and address any feelings of burnout.

– Dr. Patricia Shelton, MD at LongevIQ

What are some uncommon signs of burnout?

Some of the more uncommon symptoms of burnout are not so much uncommon as they are not typically associated with burnout. Be on the look out for things like “phantom” physical aches and pains, GI distress, difficulty sleeping, and increased substance use. People often self-medicate their stress with alcohol and other drugs. And stress-related burnout often manifests itself in our physiology. Hence, GI distress, aches and pains, and trouble sleeping. Talk to your doctor if these symptoms persist for more than a couple of weeks.”

– Randy Withers, LCMHC at Blunt Therapy

Why does burnout occur even when we love our jobs?

Burnout occurs even when we love our jobs, because business owners often wear many hats and put business and client obligations before personal health. There are many things one can outsource but health is not one of them. No one will benefit from sleep you don’t get, but everyone around you, including family, employees and customers will be affected by the lack of it when it shows up as sloppiness in your work and missed obligations.

No one but you gain advantage from your nutrition, and there are no benefits from fruits and vegetables or vitamin supplements you don’t consume on a regular basis. Eating crappy foods may be convenient especially during a burnout period, but your health will pay the price and the way crappy foods make you feel will extend the burnout period.

The same is true for exercise, movement is a huge contributor in mental and physical well-being. You can hire a fitness trainer, but unless you show up for the workouts and do the reps, you don’t get toned, or reap the benefits that exercise provides. Skipping or ignoring personal health is one of the biggest factors in burnout.

Oddly enough, when you take of yourself, you are better equipped overall to take care of those around you. Loving your job is only part of the equation, you also have to love and take care of yourself.

– Angela Brown, CEO of Savvy Cleaner

How can individuals tell the difference between burnout and depression?

From my experience working with business owners for over a decade, burnout tends to occur when someone has been pushing through a lot of internal resistance (i.e.: stress, confidence issues, and other conflicts in the mind), overworking, and feeling emotionally unfilled for a period of time. Whereas, depression is typically caused by either an acute sense of loss (i.e.: grieving), or a chronic sense of unfulfillment in life. Both require some mindset shifts, but depression caused by a chronic sense of unfulfillment often requires some deeper emotional healing.

– Alicia Cramer at

When is it time to ask for professional help when you are burnt out?

Burnout can be a very debilitating condition if left untreated. The reality is that as the days go by, individuals encounter very stressful situations that overtime can lead to significant mental and physical fatigue in the form of burnout. In particular, with the ongoing pressures associated with workplace related stress the cases of burn out have increased dramatically and even more so with the pandemic. With that said, if your burnout is leading to physical impairment, suicidal thoughts, apathy towards relationships, and or social anxiety then it may be time to consult with a professional for help. Essentially, it is important to be proactive about your mental health and if you feel like you are struggling with burnout, it is definitely time to seek out professional help. A therapist can help you understand the root cause of your stress and work with you to develop healthy coping mechanisms. If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, they can also provide you with the necessary support to keep you safe and get you the help you need. If your burnout is impacting your work, it is also important to seek out professional help so that you can create a plan to prevent further deterioration of your condition. To assess whether or not you have burnout try asking yourself the following questions:

  • How often do you feel overwhelmed by your work?
  • Do you find that you are unable to focus on tasks or complete them in a timely manner?
  • Do you frequently feel exhausted, both mentally and physically?
  • Do you often have difficulty sleeping or find that you are not getting enough rest?
  • Do you find yourself withdrawing from social activities or hobbies that you used to enjoy?
  • Do you feel like you are not living up to your potential?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, it is time to seek professional help. There are many resources available to individuals struggling with burnout and seeking help is the first step in managing your condition. Remember, you are not alone and there is help available. Don’t hesitate to reach out for support.

– Maya Ahmed at Cedarway Therapy

How can business owners contribute to prevent burnout from their employees?

I firmly believe that everyone in your business in equally responsible for the well-being of work colleagues. When it comes to employees it is not just about providing them with a job and a salary but also ensuring they have the time and space to do what makes them happy.

If you are an employer, you should provide your team members with opportunities to develop their skills and grow professionally. You can do this by providing multiple tasks that need to be completed and letting the employee choose which one they would like to work on first. Doing this will benefit everyone in the long run.

I think the most important thing to remember when dealing with employee burnout is that it is not always something that can be prevented. When one of your employees become burned out, it is usually because there was too much work or the person did not receive enough support on the task they were given.

Your goal as an employer is to figure out why the employee feels so overwhelmed and then take steps to address those issues. For example, if your employee has been working on a project for several weeks and still hasn’t finished it, they may need extra help. Or maybe the employee needs more training on how to complete specific tasks.

Whatever the case, it’s essential to listen to your employees’ concerns and offer solutions instead of ignoring them.

– Kyle Crisp at

How can we cope with burnout?

Creating healthy and sustainable boundaries is an important piece of preventing burnout and reversing its effects if you’ve already hit that wall. Boundaries that can help include beginning and ending all work communication at a specific time every day to make room for other life experiences. Not working during lunch. Designating 1-2 days where you do NO business related activities. Getting a virtual assistant to handle mundane tasks, filter emails, and manage your meeting calendar.

There are various ways to set up boundaries that work for your situation, and the key is trying them out with an open mind.

Maintaining those boundaries can be difficult, especially if this is a new practice for you. So it is important that you practice positive self-talk. This is something you should practice for overall mental and emotional well-being, but it can also help you maintain these boundaries.

A big enemy of maintaining boundaries is our feeling that we’re not working hard enough, and the fear of regret for not seizing the moment. So as you step away from work to hang out with friends, play a game, watch a movie or go walk around outdoors, continually remind yourself that this play time is recharging your batteries to be more effective and efficient at work. And during those times where you’ve slipped in maintaining your boundaries, don’t beat yourself up about it. Chuckle and set the intention to begin those boundaries again tomorrow.

– Chris Colbert, Founder and CEO of DCP Entertainment

What is the difference between stress and burnout in the workplace?

Every person has stressful days at work. Between looming deadlines, difficult projects, and disagreements with colleagues, it’s no wonder why we sometimes feel mentally exhausted. Employee burnout can affect anyone, especially people who consistently feel stressed, frustrated, or anxious.

A common misconception is that stress and burnout are the same. Stress is a response we all feel from the daily stressors of life. Work, family, money, health, relationships, and difficult situations can all cause different levels of stress. Burnout happens when prolonged stress makes us feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet life’s demands.

Employees who feel burned out may find it difficult—or even impossible—to be their best selves at work, especially when they feel pushed to a breaking point. Stressed employees also tend to have higher turnover rates, feel less motivated, and take more time off due to work-related exhaustion.

The truth is that stress is part of the human experience. Certain people, situations, and events are bound to make you feel overwhelmed. However, the key to keeping stress levels in check and avoiding burnout is to practice constant self-care, set boundaries, and schedule time in your week to do things you enjoy.

At work, advocate for yourself by asking “How can I make my workplace a healthy and enjoyable place for myself?” This could take the form of adjusting your work hours, rearranging your space, or scheduling quiet hours on your calendar. Discuss these non-negotiables with your supervisor and colleagues so everyone understands what you need to be successful.

At home, schedule time to rest and recover. Spend at least 30 minutes per day enjoying the things that bring you happiness and help you to feel recharged. When in doubt, seek outside support from a therapist, counselor, coach, or mental health resource.

– Meaghan Maybee, Content Marketing Specialist at pc/nametag

What can we learn from entrepreneurs that have overcome burnout?

Elon Musk once compared launching a startup to “chewing glass and staring into the abyss.” For Musk — and countless legions of Type-A business types — the need to address burnout before it becomes problematic is self-evident.

That being the case, the recommendation to seek out “effective self-care” shows up in the No. 1 slot on the list of priorities for numerous successful businesspeople. However, the meaning of that phrase will vary widely. Some people unwind and refresh through regular exercise. For others, it’s meditation. 

What works well for someone else may not work for you. The two key concepts to keep in mind are identification and amelioration. Both require a deep level of self-understanding undergirded by some form of external accountability.

  • Identification: Common symptoms of burnout include reduced productivity, mental fog, changes in sleep or diet patterns, high blood pressure, and mood swings. Often these shifts occur imperceptibly, which is why heading off burnout will necessitate at least one voice outside your head that you have “deputized” to call changes in behavior to your attention. Of course, this presupposes you will pay attention when a trusted friend or coworker waves the warning flag.
  • Amelioration: Once the warning flag has gone up, it’s time to shift the workload, start clearing other priorities off your weekly planner, and intentionally pursue those activities that restore and revitalize you. In one of his blog posts, Sir Richard Branson encourages others to feel no guilt when it’s time to stop work. After all, if you don’t allow your mind and body to rejuvenate, you might win the immediate battle to complete specific tasks. Still, you will likely lose the capacity to work steadily over years and decades.

You are a unique individual. Pay attention to people, places, and things that drain you. Likewise, make a note when you find yourself refreshed and ready to go. The entry fee for victory over burnout is simply acknowledging that you are finite and limited. Take steps to ensure that you catch yourself trying to be all things to all people all the time!

– Kimberly Zhang, Editor in Chief at Under30CEO

How do you cope with burnout?

I started my career in the bustling “ad world” in NYC. I loved the city life, my colleagues & was learning skills that helped me grow as a designer, but the toll the hustle culture was taking on my mental health wasn’t worth it. So I created HIYO DESIGN. I now set my own boundaries & have found it produces more effective & affordable results for my clients, without the late nights or burnout.

– Cristi, CoFounder & Design Director at

How can essential oils help with burnout?

It’s no secret that essential oils can have a powerful effect on our mood and overall well-being. But what many people don’t realize is that essential oils can also be extremely helpful in managing burnout. For those who are struggling with the effects of burnout, essential oils can provide much-needed relief from stress and fatigue.

Essential oils are natural compounds extracted from plants. Each oil has its own unique scent and therapeutic properties. When used aromatically or topically, essential oils can help to promote relaxation, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve mood.

Essential oils can be a great way to help with burnout. They are a natural and safe way to boost your energy levels, reduce stress, and restore peace and clarity.

There are a number of essential oils that are known to be particularly effective in managing burnout. Lavender oil is one of the most popular essential oils for burnout and relaxation, as it’s known for its calming and soothing properties. It can help to reduce the physical and emotional symptoms of burnout.

Other essential oils that can help with burnout include chamomile, eucalyptus, and rosemary. Simply inhaling the scent of these essential oils can help to calm your nervous system and ease stress. You can also add a few drops of essential oil to an aromatherapy diffuser, or create a relaxing aromatherapy massage by combining essential oils with carrier oils like jojoba or coconut oil.

For those requiring an energy boost, oils that are known for their energizing effects are peppermint, rosemary, and lemon. You can diffuse these oils or inhale them directly to help revitalize your energy levels.

Geranium and frankincense can help to promote feelings of peace and clarity. You can diffuse these oils or inhale them directly to help you clear your mind and bring peace.

By taking some time for yourself and using essential oils, you can help combat burnout, ease symptoms, and restore balance to your life. With their calming and rejuvenating effects, essential oils can help you get back on track and find your footing again.

If you’re feeling burned out, essential oils can be a helpful way to ease your symptoms and help you relax. For more guidance on burnout relief essential oils visit:

– Jennifer Lane, Certified Aromatherapist and owner of Loving Essential Oils

In what ways can we support a loved one going through burnout?

Before giving a hand to someone experiencing burnout, I want you to know they might be in an emotionally vulnerable state right now.

Any conversations could make your loved one feel low or defensive, and they might push you away anytime. However, don’t let your ego come in your way and force you to give up. Just be patient with them.

Here are the seven simplest ways you can provide the best support to your loved ones struggling with burnout:-

1. When they ask you to give them space, don’t ask questions or forcefully accompany them. Let them enjoy solitude for some time. It would help declutter their thoughts and refresh themselves.

2. Don’t be their daddy and speak up generic bullshit that everyone already knows and says. For example, statements such as, “burnout is a part of life. Just keep going, and you’ll get rid of it.” would frustrate them even more.

3. Convince them to take a recovery break from work because they may be working too much for too long.

The quote by Michael Gungor, “Burnout happens when you try to avoid being human for too long,” would massively help you while you would be convincing them.

4. Do fun activities with them to keep them distracted from pondering over their work. You could try watching movies, playing games, or hanging out with them.

5. Don’t start any conversations that might trigger their burnout feelings. For example, if they experienced burnout because of working their ass off in their business, asking them “how’s their business going” every day won’t be a good idea.

6. Suggest them to spend time doing the things they love. Forcing them to do something against their will may end up frustrating them even more.

7. At least, for now, prevent your “loved one” from pushing past their limits. If you see them working too much again, pull them back.

– Varun Pahwa at

How can remote workers prevent burnout?

  1. Having an Agenda before you start the day

We easily mix up our priorities as remote workers because stuff is always floating around. Even writing down the things we still need to complete from the previous day would greatly aid us in preparing the schedule for the next day. For remote workers, prioritizing duties will undoubtedly be helpful because it streamlines the day’s schedule. We should plan out how long each task should take by include the virtual calls on this schedule as well. When we have a streamline plan for the day, we’ll always have things to do in steady pace, giving us allowances to plan in the breaks as well.

  1. A dedicated Workspace

As long as there is an obvious separation between the work area and the rest area, a dedicated workstation can be found anyplace. Many people assume that since the majority of employees are required to work from home or have a hybrid work style, they will need to upgrade their home offices with more peripherals. However, the truth is that our minds would naturally adjust to it as a single workstation as long as there is a distinct boundary between the work and play areas. In that we would be able to take breaks and leave our office for a brief period of time to decompress, this would help to prevent burnout.

  1. Take sufficient breaks especially when facing a digital screen for the whole day

When we interact with co-workers or go to the pantry to get a snack, we naturally take breaks from the screen as opposed to in an office setting. This promotes mental health and gives our brains a little period of rest. This paradigm ought to be used when working remotely as well so that we can rest our eyes and renew our mental faculties. Long-term health benefits from this would likewise be favourable.

– Qinthara Fasya, Assistant Editor for DigitalCFO Asia

How can remote workers set boundaries to avoid burnout?

Remote workers are frequently disconnected from the rest of their team, both physically and culturally. It is easy to fall into the habit of working excessive hours or allowing projects to expand beyond the scope. Both of these are examples of boundaries being compromised. Boundaries should be set cooperatively between your management team and yourself. What are your expectations, and what are those of management? For example, if your management team expects you to be available 24×7 because you are remote, that’s just unreasonable. Likewise, if you want to work on agreed-to projects that only require 25-30 hours of your time per week, is that fair to your company or to you? Boundaries should include a reasonable amount of work time and space for lunch, breaks, and family events.

Further, remote work should allow you some flexibility of schedule, including time off for special events. On the occasional times where you have to work more on a project, you should be able to ask for compensating time off. Remote work should be a benefit to you, the company you work for, and your mutual customers or clients.

– Randy Johnston at

What are your 3 top tips to stay productive even when we’re on the verge of burning out?

1.) Lower your expectations for yourself. Remembering that good enough is good enough gets me through many low periods. Not everything needs to be 100%, and some things can wait until you feel better. 

2.)Reprioritize. Make a list of all your responsibilities and see which ones are crucial and which ones can wait. Identifying the most critical task and downgrading the less time-sensitive will take a lot of stress off your plate. 

3.) Remember that you are your own most valuable asset. Burnout is a mental health condition and a sign that your environment might need some changes. When you’re feeling better, look at what might be ramping up your anxiety and see if you can make some changes. Do what’s best for you without shame, and take the time you need to get better.

– Maria Black at MySoulBalm

Why is being kind to yourself essential when we’re experiencing burnout?

There’s a misconception that kindness is meant for others. 

Most of us know how to be kind towards others — to be considerate towards service staff, compassionate towards those in need, and gracious towards the people around us. For some, it’s as natural as breathing; for others, it’s more of a work-in-progress. 

Nevertheless, the majority of us would at least understand the fundamentals of kindness and how it can be applied to others. Yet, we often struggle to extend this same grace towards ourselves.

While we might baulk at the idea of forcing others to work until they reach physical or mental exhaustion, many of us have no qualms about pushing ourselves to do that. We work long hours, building stress and ignoring our own needs in favour of doing more.

The end result is, of course, burnout. 

No matter how we justify it to ourselves, reaching the point of burnout is a sign that we’ve been significantly unkind to both our minds and bodies. That is a problem — if we aren’t able to take the first step of treating ourselves with the kindness and respect that we deserve, then we can’t extend that same compassion to others.

So how can we be kind to ourselves during burnout?

The first step would be to slow down and understand our needs. Without knowing why we’ve burnt ourselves out, it is difficult to help ourselves exit that state. Take some time to figure out what exactly caused the burnout and then address it. 

In the meantime, do some things that make you happy — take a walk, watch a movie, or curl up with a good book. Being kind to yourself isn’t very different from being kind to others — the aim is still to extend graciousness and compassion to be a positive force in life.

Being kind to ourselves also brings us many health benefits. Research has found that people who practise self-love and compassion not only experience less stress but have a lower heart rate and blood pressure and a stronger immune system.

Keep practising kindness on yourself, even when you’ve overcome your burnout. 

Being kind is a way of making our own lives and the lives of others meaningful. It allows us to communicate better with others, be more self-compassionate, and also be a positive force in other people’s lives.

– William Wan, JP, PhD, General Secretary at Singapore Kindness Movement

What tools can people use to identify if they are burnt out?

First of all, people can use the 3 factors I described in my article we already talked about:

  • Occupational exhaustion
  • Depersonalization/loss of empathy
  • Personal accomplishment assessment

This is important because burnout is not a binary thing, but a spectrum or a scale.

Common signs are (but are not exclusive to burnout):

  • exhaustion – it feels like one can never recover from being tired mentally/emotionally
  • a long streak of lack of motivation
  • cognitive issues – e.g. finding it hard to focus and pay attention
  • regularly feeling frustrated and/or cynical – one might feel what they do doesn’t matter anymore, and they get disillusioned
  • having regular negative thoughts and/or anxiety about work even when not at work
  • burnout can lead to physical symptoms, such as headache or intestinal issues (but of course, there are many other potential causes for these)
  • reduced performance – mostly because of the negative thoughts, exhaustion and finding it hard to focus
  • messed up sleep cycle
  • no/low satisfaction from one’s achievements – even when doing a fantastic job, you’re not getting the satisfaction you used to.

– Csaba Okrona at Leadership.Garden

How can we benefit from therapy when we are fighting burnout?

Burnout can manifest in many different forms. Physical, emotional, spiritual, relational, political, etc… It’s a buildup of stress, tension, and intense demands that takes its toll over time. 

Whether you’re feeling emotionally and/or physically exhausted, dread going to work, or find yourself isolating or avoiding the people, places, and things you used to love, you may be struggling with burnout. 

Burnout has been even more prevalent over the past few years while we all experienced the shared trauma of navigating life during a pandemic. This added level of stress has contributed to higher levels of burnout than usual. 

Regardless of where you fall on the level of heightened stress, anxiety, and full-on burnout spectrum, there’s no doubt that therapy with a licensed mental health professional can help.  

Since the pandemic started, counseling has become much more mainstream and accessible with telehealth (online counseling). The stigma about seeking mental health services has finally begun to decrease allowing more people to seek counseling when needed. 

Many counseling offices (like ours in South Florida – Bayview Therapy) provide in-office appointments and telehealth options, which are convenient for professionals with demanding schedules, stay at home parents, and people who travel a lot 

There are many benefits from seeking counseling. It’s important to find a therapist that you feel comfortable with so you’ll be open with them and they can help you create a plan to attain your goals. 

Your therapist will help you learn the skills to better manage life’s challenges such as anxiety, stress, depression, trauma/PTSD, substance abuse, and relationship discord. You’ll gain more insight into your behaviors and how to create more preferred behaviors moving forward. You’ll learn strategies to attain greater peace, balance, happiness, and fulfillment in life and your relationships. 

The benefits of counseling are endless. Give it a chance if you haven’t already, you’ll be glad you did!

– Kate Campbell, PhD, LMFT at Bayview Therapy

How can we explain burnout to someone who has not experienced it?

Burnout is a workplace phenomenon resulting from chronic stress due to one’s occupation. Although the experience of burnout differs from individual to individual, it is often likened to a state of absolute exhaustion, feeling defeated, and emptiness.

Burnout symptoms vary; however, there are three main classifications; exhaustion, cynicism, and ineffectiveness. Those experiencing burnout may feel a sense of overwhelming exhaustion, feelings of cynicism and detachment from the job, or a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment in their role.

As burnout is often exacerbated by repetitive stressful activities, it can be prevented through the balance of practicing repetitive positive behavior, getting adequate sleep, exercise, nutrition, and self-reflection. Talk-based therapy is often very effective, and it can be encouraged to chat with your peers at work, friends, family, a coach, or a therapist similar to those offered on Frankie. 

Frankie Health is a workplace mental health platform assisting employees tackle burnout through personalizing their support journey and offering support via therapists, coaches, and tailored exercises.

– Seb Poole at Frankie Health

How can switching off help with burnout?

Over 80 percent of the worldwide inhabitants own a smartphone. Mixed together with your laptop computer, monitor, and TV, you most likely spend extra time in the entrance of a digital display than sleeping. That’s not hyperbole: Work it out. Mockingly, iOS does it for you (at the very least on your Apple units). Evaluate these hours of time spent sleeping and I feel you’ll be shocked.

“What’s the issue?” you may ask. Other than poorer eyesight, complications, and insomnia, know-how habits can be related to anxiety and depression. You may suppose your always-on connectedness helps your clients or staff, however, you’re setting yourself up for failure and worse. Logging further screentime isn’t a badge of honor: it’s a wellbeing threat.

Schedule common breaks away from units. Most docs counsel a five-to-ten minute break each hour, go additional, and take a complete day (or extra) on occasion. Switching off might be laborious at first – you may even really feel irritable – however, in the long term, releasing your thoughts from the clutches of your units will assist sharpen your ideas and bolstering your psychological wellbeing.

– The Top Daily News

How can we find motivation amid burnout?

Staying motivated is no easy task in our culture. We are trapped by demands, responsibilities, commitments, and self-imposed ideals of success. Motivation is a desire or willingness to do, what we perceive to be, a worthwhile task. We do this task despite the anxiety that may come with it, despite the temptation to distraction, despite the sacrifice of pleasure in the present moment we press on. Burnout makes motivation harder because we don’t have the optimal energy reserve to overcome the anxiety or distraction that hinders motivation. When we are burnt out we feel depleted and exhausted. It is difficult to summon the necessary energy to keep our attention on the task. Our technology-infused world offers endless opportunities for distraction and burnout makes it harder to resist their appealing allure.

Burnout is caused by chronic stress, a loss of interest in life activities, low energy, or feeling overwhelmed. Fundamental to all of these challenges is our finite and limited world. We only have 24 hours in a day and we must sleep and take care of ourselves during that time. That leaves 10 to 15 hours of time to be productive and motivated. The human brain also has limits on how long it can stay focused. Highly trained brains can focus for up to two hours, yet the average attention span is less than 10 seconds in our modern world.

Staying motivated amidst burnout must first start with the acknowledgment and acceptance of life as framed in the previous paragraphs. It is at this point that questions can be asked on how to engage this reality, how to set boundaries, and how to live a more intentional, informed life. And the most challenging task is making decisions about what to let go of and how to surrender to a future that we all have limited control over.

– Dr. Thomas Lucking at Silicon Valley Therapy

What is the future of the non-stop hustle mentality after this pandemic burnout era?

With the lines between working and personal life becoming blurred as a result of the pandemic, many working professionals have found it hard to switch off and enjoy downtime with their loved ones. This can take many forms, including not having a dedicated and separate workspace in the home (for remote/hybrid workers) and not switching off workplace notifications on their phones. This has created a workforce made up of individuals experiencing extreme levels of burnout.

And while businesses are doing all they can to combat burnout, it’s not quite enough; they need to tackle the source – of which burnout is simply the outcome.

The digital era has facilitated a space where the world is non-stop, with FOMO becoming a real issue for every generation. The ability to switch on any device and be instantly connected with millions of other people around the globe irrelevant of the time of day is as empowering as it is exhausting. And with remote/hybrid work becoming prevalent in the workplace, professionals are often finding themselves working with disparate teams, meaning if they log on at 2 am, they’ll be able to converse with a colleague in the middle of their working day on the other side of the globe.

But the danger of this approach is the inability to switch off which can lead to much more serious issues than burnout. It can have long-lasting impacts on mental health and wellbeing, including impacting personal lives and leaving individuals feeling despondent.

So how can businesses combat this non-stop hustle mentality? While the simplest approach might be to instill set working times and encourage individuals to only work within specified hours, this can be difficult to monitor. The reality is that organizations need to reassess the expectations they have of their employees; how many in their workforce feel they’re under-resourced and unable to complete their required tasks? How many feel like they need to work additional hours in order to meet deadlines and deliver on expectations? These are the true causes of burnout: understaffed, under-resourced departments that can’t keep pace. And while the global skill shortage may be contributing to this additional pressure, businesses should be looking at the bigger picture to determine where there are weak points in their workforce and how they can support current employees.

– Natasha Vickery-Orme, Editor in Chief at Insights For Professionals

How can work-life balance help us avoid burning out?

There are Big Benefits to Beating Burnout 

Much like a plant needs the sun to grow, burnout needs chronic stress to develop. Therefore, if we prevent or reduce stress by balancing our personal and professional lives, we eliminate burnout’s ability to develop or deepen. All in all, work-life balance is not only the best preventive measure; it is the actual cure. 

Between work, children and family, people have a lot on their plate, and balancing it all is no easy task — if it were, everyone would be doing it, because the benefits are undeniably fantastic. Work-life balance improves physical and mental health and enables people to cope better with stress. In addition, those with balanced lives are generally happier and more productive and successful.  

Unfortunately, burnout has reached epidemic proportions. The World Health Organization declared burnout an official diagnosis in 2019 and labeled it an “occupational phenomenon.” This is why companies are increasingly investing in work-life balance benefits for their employees. They realize it is in their best business interests to join the battle against burnout. Around 95% of companies deal with the negative impacts of burned-out employees. However, organizations that prioritize work-life balance can cut turnover by upwards of 50%. Their employees are also happier and more productive — working 21% harder. 

In the battle against burnout, work-life balance is the proverbial armor we should all be wearing.  

– Kelly Crotty, Marketing Content Manager at

The Bottom Line

We hope this article helps you recognize, combat, and prevent burnout. There are a variety of actions we can take as individuals to reduce stress before they become overwhelming. Tackling home projects can be a sore spot that can add unnecessary stress to our lives. We are here to help whether you need to renovate your kitchen, fix that annoying leaky sink, or replace that broken window you’ve been avoiding, Porch has got you covered.

Author’s Note:

This article is still being edited as experts submit their advice.

Could Asia’s banks be first into the metaverse?


Kar-Wee Ang, Business Development Director at the London Institute of Banking & Finance | 23 May 2022

Asia’s consumers have particularly high-speed internet access. Will that help Asia’s banks to be the first to develop services in the metaverse? Kar-Wee Ang, Business Development Director at the London Institute of Banking & Finance argues that it should

The metaverse is predicted to be a huge money spinner. Citi Global Insights estimates that its total addressable market could be over US$10 trillion with around 5 billion users.

But what is the metaverse? A clear definition, much like the digital space itself, is a work in progress. Where Web 3.0 brought us decentralised services on the blockchain and big data, Web 4.0 promises a decentralised internet that blurs the line between digital and physical. That, some suggest, will be the metaverse. The potential steps toward it include a more complex version of a massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG) and a 3D world that people ‘inhabit’ with avatars.

If the full ambition of the metaverse is realised – an internet without separate platforms, without centralised control and with no need for any proprietary devices to access it – it could change the way many businesses operate.

For example, telecom equipment vendor Ericsson expects a new ‘Internet of Senses”. It says: “Imagine an immersive experience of a beach where you can feel the wind blowing on your face, the heat of the sun on your back, the humidity of the ocean air on your skin, and experience the fresh smell of the ocean breeze – right into your living room”. In that world, holograms that seem very close to real could take part in ‘in-person’ meetings.

Sound unlikely? Major investment in the metaverse is already underway. Microsoft, for example, recently spent US$75bn on the video game maker Activision-Blizzard. Its CEO, Satya Nadella, said it expects it to “provide building blocks for the metaverse”.

But even if large corporations spend a lot on getting ready for the metaverse, a good experience that encourages lots of consumer engagement is not a given. In particular, the metaverse is likely to fall flat without high-speed network access. And that is why Asia – particularly Singapore – might find it is an important testing ground for the metaverse. Asia has the highest density of fibre to the home in the world.

High-speed internet access in Asia
By 2026, nearly 95% of the fixed broadband in APAC will be fibre-to-the-home or building (FTTH/B), according to GlobalData. Singapore is out in front with nearly 100% FTTH/B penetration expected by 2026. It’s closely followed by Vietnam, Hong Kong and Malaysia, with 96.6%, 93.0%, and 92.8% FTTH/B penetration by 2026 respectively, the research says.

That puts Asia far ahead of Europe and the US. In Europe, for example, Germany aims to have (FTTH/B) for at least 50% of all Germany companies and businesses by the end of 2025 (three times the current penetration). In the US, as things stand, around 43% of households have fibre internet access.

One of the main reasons for the gap is that it’s much easier to give a whole population fibre connectivity when most people live in high-rise buildings rather than in more scattered homes. That multi-dwelling-effect benefits Singapore in particular.

But why does the connectivity speed matter? For online experiences to be immersive, the perceived time lag between a user, say, reaching for a sword in an online game and ‘using’ it has to be very short. Otherwise, the experience feels ‘off’. Swedish telecom equipment company Ericsson says that time-critical video games require 30 millisecond end-to-end network latency to work well. The lowest latency connection, of course, is fibre.

Asian banks are moving into the metaverse
HSBC recently announced that it is setting up a metaverse investment fund aimed at high-net-worth clients in Asia. It already has skin in the game with a “plot of land” in the The Sandbox, a virtual world where it can engage with gamers and e-sports fans.

HSBC says its ‘Metaverse Discretionary Strategy portfolio’ will allow investors to put money into five different aspects of metaverse: infrastructure, computing, virtualisation, experience and discovery, and interface.

It’s not the only bank in Asia that is keen to get in on the ground floor. Mary Huen, chief executive of Standard Chartered, Hong Kong said: “The metaverse is a vision for the next phase in the internet’s evolution, bringing new possibilities and unique experiences through the use of immersive technologies.” Standard Chartered has bought a plot of land in The Sandbox’s Mega City, a culture hub with a Hong Kong theme. 

When will the metaverse be an everyday part of banking? HSBC expects the metaverse to develop rapidly. “We see many exciting opportunities in this space as companies of different backgrounds and sizes are flocking into the ecosystem,” Lina Lim, regional head of discretionary and funds for investments and wealth solutions, Asia Pacific, at HSBC, said in a statement.

But what will banks be allowed to do in the metaverse?

To protect businesses and consumers, banks are highly regulated. Though that can slow innovation, regulators don’t want the stability of the graveyard. The best regulatory outcomes make full use of technology in a way that reduces costs, boosts inclusion, and furthers innovation – without undue risk.

So, what might Asian regulators do to encourage a careful exploration of the metaverse? There could be some indications in their view of cryptocurrencies and decentralised finance. The Monetary Authority of Singapore, for example, “strongly encourages the development of blockchain technology and innovative application of crypto tokens in value-adding use cases”.

That said, don’t expect a free-for-all in the metaverse. Do expect banks that service the best-connected consumers in the world, under the guidance of innovative regulators, to be among the first to be able to build out true metaverse services.

Can decentralised identities help prevent scams in a digital future?


Co-authored by Jefferson Costa, Southeast Asia Regional Security Lead, Avanade, and Ryan Lim, Growth Markets Financial Services Advisory Lead, Avanade

Cybersecurity is often a game of cat and mouse, as the saying goes. As businesses beef up their cyber defences, cyber criminals will evolve their attacks. As users become smarter to new threats, so will hackers refine their infiltration methods.

This is why phishing, one of the oldest types of cybersecurity breaches, is still such an effective cyberattack today. No matter how high you build your castle walls, all it takes to undo the efforts is a careless person inadvertently opening a backdoor to an attacker.

The recent spate of high-profile cases in the Singapore banking sector are a stark reminder of the stakes involved. Millions of dollars were lost to scammers who managed to evolve their phishing attacks to circumvent robust security measures that had worked for years. For example, in recent cases, the scammer utilised Alpha Tag – which is a name or a string of text that appears in place of a phone number as the sender ID – to deceive users into believing they were receiving legitimate messages from their respective banks. It is easy for scammers to use Alpha Tag but complex and costly for the bank to implement a robust security measure.

It is not surprising that many banks have been stepping up their cybersecurity efforts, such as building up anti-fraud measures, to manage the threat from these new attacks. In the interim, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has introduced new measures to stem the tide for such phishing scams. Additionally, MAS has been working with banks to review the liability framework on scam payments and transactions, and it is clear that all parties – government agencies, banks and customers alike – should shoulder the responsibility for fighting scams.

While phishing has remained similar in many ways over the years, the methods behind the practice have changed significantly. Cybercriminals have become more organised and effective in crafting phishing scams and cyberattacks by banking on resources on the Dark Web. This means cyberattacks will become more sophisticated. To stay ahead, banks must rethink how they can safeguard consumers against these attacks without rolling back years of advancement they have made in terms of customer experience.

Why a unique digital identity is important

Central to new efforts must be an evolved digital identity. As customer interactions now span physical, online and mobile channels, banks need to rethink how they deliver efficient and robust identity verification and authentication.

Most banks already have ways to verify the first two elements – through a device and a password. However, they do not usually have a way to verify a customer’s biometric information, which helps identify the customer based on biological features such as fingerprints and eyes.

This is important because biometric information is unique to each person and difficult for cybercriminals to counterfeit and/or steal. Together, the data collected from these elements describes an individual uniquely, so a bank can safely trust that the person it is dealing with is authentic.

The future lies in decentralised identity

With identity management central to digital transactions in future, banks have to find a way to make sure that these digital identities are secure. One way forward is through the emerging concept of decentralised identity.

This means that users retain control of their identity by storing their biometric information, as an example, in a digital identity wallet. It would contain verified information from trusted or certified issuers such as the government. With this, a user can control what personal information he shares with a third party, whether this is a bank or another entity that he is transacting with digitally. In other words, more personal control over privacy.

Just as important is the enhanced security that decentralised identity offers. Since a person’s information is not stored with a single entity or organisation, it is not as easy to steal and control that person’s identity and data.

With a digital identity wallet that is protected, a user can consent before sharing any personal information and have full knowledge of what has been shared (i.e., transparency).

For both banks and customers, decentralised identity brings clear benefits. For one, less information is stored in banks’ databases which would mean data breaches are not as damaging. This also means passwords can be replaced for future multi-factor authentication (MFA) processes. Scammers which rely on phishing links/websites will need users to provide biometrics instead of just passwords.

There is still a lot of work to be done for a mature decentralised identity ecosystem, but first steps have already been taken today. When multiple issuers and verifiers are onboard, and decentralised identities are accepted by public and private sectors around the world, users and organisations would enjoy a more simplified yet secure way to transact.

Analog Pitfalls of Digital Transformation


Hiten Dhruv, CFA, Project Management Lead & Product Owner @ Singlife | 26 April 2022

The key to successful digital transformations isn’t just about the “digital” aspect — it is about successfully navigating through the analog or non-technical pitfalls.

Companies have been undergoing various forms of “digital transformations” ever since the Y2K challenge. Almost every firm— big or small, has its own version of a digital transformation program. These could either be in response to the competition and or to gain their own competitive advantage.

It is important to note that digital transformation is not a single project or initiative. Almost always, it is a long-term, enterprise-wide strategy; much like a marathon run planned around significant milestones.

However, research from various studies published by McKinseyForbes and BCG, among others; suggests that these programs suffer from a high rate of failure.

Repurposing the famous opening lines of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina — “Successful digital transitions are all alike; every unsuccessful one is unsuccessful in its own way.” Stating the obvious — there are many potential causes of failure.

Managing transformations across large and small enterprises over more than 20 years has given me a ring-side view of what succeeds and what doesn’t. Among the various reasons for failure, though, are a handful of analog or non-technical pitfalls that can disproportionately impact the odds of success for a successful program.

These relate to limited digital skill sets or savvy of the senior leaders, under-investing in organizational change and people development and finally failing to translate the strategic goals to operational and functional targets for the firm’s digital transformation journey.

Not upskilling senior leadership to be “digitally savvy”

Many leaders mask their digital ignorance under the cloak of “I don’t want to get into the details” or “just give me the big picture / bottom line”. Thus, they end up taking a simplistic view of digital transformation — often treating it as an upgrade of the IT function and its services. This can setup the transformation efforts for failure from the outset as they are unable to craft a coherent vision or make false priority choices for already scarce capital and resources.

Hence, before anyone else, it is the company’s leadership who must gain a nuanced understanding of how digital technologies such as social, mobile, analytics, AI, can be leveraged for the company’s success.

This is, of course, easier said than done. Either through hubris or misguided notions of seeking simplified solutions, leadership generally consider “digital” as a bolt-on component to their decision-making processes.

The leadership team must demonstrate the willingness to be “coached and taught” about the relevant technical advances and ecosystems which are likely to impact the future for their business.

By far, the most effective and eye-opening exercise for everyone involved in digital initiatives — but especially senior leadership, is to personally use the company’s technology offerings. Nothing provides more clarity than experiencing the customer’s journey yourself to understand your company’s “digital moment of truth”.

Under-investing in organizational change and people development

Ifa digital transformation program doesn’t result in a structural organization change, then it is just a system upgrade exercise.

Digital transformation requires a cultural shift resulting in altering the status quo. Transforming to a digital enterprise requires specialized leaders and custodians. Examples of new leadership positions and functions spearheading this transition include a chief digital officer (CDO) and a full-fledged data analytics function.

Transformation programs which don’t take the opportunity to reorganize around a digital first operating structure risk going back to the old ways of working but with the higher overheads of a shiny new “digital white elephant”!

Many companies also lack the skill sets, experience or bandwidth internally to implement a digital transformation for the organization. Firms that do not seek advice from experienced partners tend to make common mistakes such as setting unrealistic goals and allocating inadequate resources.

Initially, they must seek to remedy this by partnering with external consultants to leverage their expertise. In parallel though, they must also invest in training existing teams and hiring new members equipped with the right digital transformation skill sets.

It’s like we bought a Ferrari to replace our bicycle — but we can’t use the Ferrari as we only know how to ride a bicycle, and no one trained us to drive a car!

study by Stanford’s Erik Brynjolfsson and others concluded, “despite investing heavily in advanced technologies like artificial intelligence in more and more domains, productivity and profitable returns on investment are stagnant or declining. The biggest contributor to this paradox, is the failure to invest in skills — especially the lack of reskilling and upskilling existing employees.”

Failing To Translate Strategic Goals into Operational Targets

Leadership and the rest of the company can get disjointed in their vision of the outcome if they lack a common understanding of goals and targets of the digital transformation. Everyone across the firm who is involved in or impacted by the program, must have a common understanding, language and description of what success is supposed to look like. Is it improving end-user experience; or increasing market share through new revenue streams; or improving product quality; or increasing process efficiency? Or is it all of it?

The firm-wide strategic goals of the transformation must be channeled as appropriate operational targets to the individual functions such as Sales, Finance, IT, Operations and HR. The high-level, strategic organizational goals when supported by specific functional targets are critical in bypassing departmental siloes and building the digital DNA for the firm.

“Contradictory goals & targets” Photo by 愚木混株 cdd20 on Unsplash

Digital transformation requires participation at all levels of the organization. It is critical to secure buy-in from the start, ensuring that key stakeholders understand what they can contribute to the initiative and recognize what their departments stand to gain.

Digital transformations work and can deliver significant, sustainable value for all stakeholders — organizations, employees and customers. However, even when it is done well, realizing the benefits of digital transformation is far from an easy experience.

Avoiding the negative impact of these pitfalls is easier said than done. However, firms need to consider the sum of the technical and non-technical parts of the transformation to be greater than those it precedes. As important as the technology is in itself, successful digital transformations require leadership, cross-functional synergy and redefining the organization’s culture to create the needed impact at the individual, functional and organizational levels.

Using Zero Trust to Prevent Agency Ransomware Attacks


Tim Jones, Regional Vice President of Systems Engineering, Public Sector, at Forescout | 25 March 2022

COVID-19 made moving agency employees and services off-premises essential. This move, however, has also sparked one of the biggest waves of cybercrime the internet has ever seen. Ransomware attacks have been particularly effective against government agencies and critical infrastructure. The February 2021 attack on the Oldsmar water plant in Florida shows an attempt was made to manipulate the pH in the city’s water to dangerously high acidic levels by increasing sodium hydroxide (lye) by 100 times.

The more recent Colonial Pipeline attack forced operations to a halt for six days and paid out $4.4 million to the attackers. The fallout caused gasoline shortages across the east coast and gave a clear playbook to other bad actors.

With remote operations essential for both public health and infrastructure modernization, how do you guard against these types of attacks? The answer is making Zero Trust the standard for all security operations as called for in the recent Federal Zero Trust Strategy and Cybersecurity Executive Order. Major concepts of Zero Trust for federal civilian agencies are represented in this infographic.

Making Zero Trust the standard across all devices

One of the primary sources for Zero Trust standards is NIST 800-207. This directive outlines a set of substantive Zero Trust architectures and deployment models that agencies can follow, but they aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution. It’s important to remember Zero Trust is a security design approach and not a single, fixed solution or technology that can be purchased and implemented. The core concept behind Zero Trust is to “never trust, always verify” and must be applied and adapted to every part of an agency’s infrastructure. This often requires a layered solution approach, particularly when it comes to the Internet of Things (IoT).

The IoT landscape represents the single biggest attack vector with the greatest potential for impact. No device, big or small, should be trusted by default.

How Zero Trust prevents ransomware attacks

The latest news from investigations into the Colonial Pipeline attack reveals that hackers likely got in using a leaked password from the dark web. This password let hackers into the company’s VPN, which remote employees had been using to access the company network. With Zero Trust architecture in place, your IT infrastructure cannot be compromised with a single password leak. Every device, both inside and outside the agency, needs to be verified every time it is used.

Potential ransomware attacks are thwarted when attackers are uniformly denied access across any potential attack surface. One of the most efficient and effective ways to do this is with a single security platform that can prevent, monitor and manage cyber threats across all devices and access points.

Security platforms like those from Forescout Government Solutions can help ensure that every access point is verified and secured while simultaneously monitoring and responding to threats as they happen. For this reason, proven security platforms with strong Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) solutions are a key part of complying with the Cybersecurity Executive Order.

Managing security in the mobile world

Zero Trust solutions, such as the Forescout platform, can assign additional security checks to devices with a higher risk posture and monitor real-time connections for changes. With more agency employees than ever working remotely, Zero Trust must move beyond the agency brick-and-mortar. Effective Zero Trust means an agency employee using a public coffee shop Wi-Fi will be just as protected as those working in the office.

Modern agency infrastructure relies on a mix of device and connection types, locations and workloads. Wired IoT connections in-office can connect to mobile devices miles away. Agency data structures also are being moved to the cloud for better remote access. All of these entry points need to be protected, and Zero Trust is required for these connections to be safe.

Financial Services companies turning to open source databases to drive greater agility and smarter decision-making


By Julian Moffett, CTO BFSI, EDB | 30 March 2022

Digitalization and the desire to build data-enabled business models is sweeping through the Banking, Financial Services and Insurance (BFSI) sector. And, as with other verticals, those organisations that can best optimise and capture data as an asset will benefit from agility, smarter decision making, lower costs and minimise risks. Getting there though, is a major challenge for traditional BFSI  institutions as they must overhaul long-established organisational and operational processes, if they are to take advantage of the vast amounts of valuable data lurking within their IT systems.  It is why a growing number of BFSI companies are turning to open source databases, such as PostgreSQL, as they offer far greater flexibility to unleash the power of data, while continuing to offer the robustness required for enterprise-ready databases. Let’s look at the big picture…and it’s pretty stark. 

The oldest financial institutions in Southeast Asia date back hundreds of years: such as Bank of the Philippine Islands and OCBC Bank have their roots in the 19th – 20th century; DBS Bank and UOB go back a further century. Perhaps in part because of this, they suffer from an image problem with a reputation for being risk-averse, late adopters of technology. Most will be weighed down by large legacy IT systems and monolithic applications that slow them down and make change hard. But they persist with them because they feel (with some justification) that they are hard to re-platform and dangerous to migrate. 

But their world is being shaken up by new, well-funded fintechs, enjoying the newfound freedoms of open banking. These digital-native players can design processes and technology platforms with a blank sheet of paper. That means they can use the latest tools, build on open-source software, think mobile-first, create compelling customer experiences and generally move very quickly to make new apps and offers. 

So, BFSI veterans face a tricky Catch-22 conundrum: how to be nimble without demolishing the underpinnings of processes that have served them for years or even decades. One obvious way for them to move faster is widespread adoption of cloud technology to access the latest software, gain elastic compute capacity, support mobile devices, shrink hardware cost bases and reduce their IT administration overheads. Cloud is also widely seen as an offramp for those afore-mentioned older applications by refactoring to embrace the new in the form of microservices and to shave off risks such as software being no longer supported. This is far from easy but many take a middle road which sees them deconstruct applications, placing more services in modern environments in an extended iterative process.

But moving to the cloud is an architectural change that has major implications for related infrastructure and dependencies. And a key aspect here is the chance to re-evaluate the choice of software that is at the heart of all attempts to digitize, automate and analyze – the database. Most BFSI firms will have deep sunk investments in Oracle, Microsoft or IBM relational database management systems (RDBMS) and would like to relax that dependency in order to avoid vendor lock-in, reduce costs and gain access to databases designed for the modern world of private and public cloud, Big Data analytics and flexible tooling ecosystems. There are other advantages to re-examining database choice too and many will enjoy the flexibility, ease of deployment, low-admin footprint and cost effectiveness of database as a service. This is where working with the right expert partner can prove beneficial to give BFSI companies the confidence that the chosen database is truly enterprise-ready. This is what we are seeing with the rise of open source, in particular PostgreSQL databases. Many customers will trial and run their new databases alongside core databases so risk is minimized, but increasingly we are seeing PostgreSQL emerge as the defacto standard for RDBMS requirements, as working with the right partner ensures customers have access to the expertise and reassurances necessary to guarantee open source databases can run mission-critical applications. 

The veteran’s ace card

Fintechs can move nimbly, fail fast and bring a spirit of adventure and innovation to their work but they lack one thing that the veterans have in spades: data. Big BFSI firms can look back and across a huge number of interactions to predict customer behavior, identify preferences, perform targeted marketing campaigns, provide tailored portfolio advice and anticipate needs. They can bathe in vast data lakes with myriad data sources and apply data science, AI and Machine Learning atop these. Again, here modern databases with relational stores such as Postgres are an excellent fit. 

In summary, adopting modern databases and embracing open source offerings such as PostgreSQL supported by the right partners will not only deliver an enterprise-class service. It will deliver a giant leap forward in flexibility and have very significant knock-on effects in driving a culture of innovation and a sense of freedom to try things. If BSFI veterans can unleash the potential of the data within their organizations, they can capitalize on a significant advantage over their younger, upstart rivals: now they need to find the right data store.

Tapping into the 5G opportunity

Marc Price, CTO, MATRIXX Software | 29 March 2022

A chance for telcos to cash in, and add value to our everyday lives

Even before 5G launched, technologists have been excited about the revolutionary promise the next generation of cellular technology will bring. However, while it’s been three years since the first 5G networks have gone live, the technology has failed to catch on in a significant way, accounting for just 4% of global mobile connections.

An exception is the developed nations of Asia Pacific and Greater China, where the number of 5G connections is almost double that of the rest of the world[2]. By 2025, 67% of all connections in Australia, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea will be 5G, and there will be nearly 900 million 5G connections across Greater China alone.  

Consumers in these territories enjoy high levels of coverage, incredible connection speeds and low latency which makes watching videos or playing games anywhere, at any time, even easier. You only have to look at the Hong Kong MTR during rush hour to see the impact 5G can have on mobile usage.

But these services are based on 4G concepts, and even with a better experience are not yet transformational. For the most part, consumers and enterprises have not yet experienced the full, immersive benefits 5G can bring. In part this is because truly transformational devices have yet to emerge. At the moment, 5G is largely a faster version of what we’ve had before, while there is potential for it to be so much more. Imagine the value 5G will bring when augmented reality becomes more accessible, providing contextual information to improve one’s enjoyment while watching at the winning goal at the football match. Or when biometric statistics from wearables instantly update real-time applications from training videos to next-generation games.

These kinds of evolved experiences – and many more just like it – will be possible with 5G, and consumers across Asia are more than ready for it. The hold-up comes as telcos across the region evolve from simply providing ‘connectivity’ to becoming enablers of richer, more value driven services.

Imagine a scenario that is not so far in the future where a self-driving taxi picks up a commuter on their way back home from work. The commuter’s phone connects automatically to the car and, in return for lower rates, the taxi company serves up a series of ads. One of these is for a home-delivered pizza which is too tempting to pass up.

In this scenario, who pays for the 5G connection? The commuter, taxi company or the pizza restaurant? More pertinently, how does a telco, used to charging for data usage by minute or volume, make the transaction possible? What happens when that pizza ad was an immersive, make-your-own VR pizza experience, consuming large amounts of ultra-low latency data?

These kinds of scenarios will become more commonplace over the next few years as businesses see real-world commercial opportunities. Their success, though, requires telcos to evolve the way they operate.

A key part of that evolution is an overhaul of the unglamorous, ‘back-end’ systems telcos use to bill users. These systems worked well when telcos were calculating call minutes, SMS and bytes of data but work less effectively in a more dynamic, value-driven model.

Up until now, telcos have been limited in the types of value they can transact. The business model was like a giant meter with the operator passing on the cost to the appropriate user. The opportunities that come with 5G and its open ecosystem, represent a fresh start for operators; a chance to redefine the way they work. That redefinition could lead to innovative ways to bill customers that would create opportunities for telcos while delivering a new world of experiences for users.

Let’s take a look at a football scenario that illustrates the point. Instead of offering a simple replay to fans in the stadium, imagine that someone in the crowd can access not just the 30 camera angles used by broadcasters to cover the game but another dozen cameras that provide unique views. With 5G, fans could stitch together – in real-time – several camera angles to create unique footage of a goal, or even what-if scenarios that show what might have happened.

In the current business model, this would present a problem of who would pay for those additional angles. Fans accessing them? Stadia operators? Teams? Broadcasters?

In a brave new 5G world, this kind of fan-focused service presents a huge opportunity for the spectator, but it also benefits teams, the stadium operator, and the broadcaster. The telco can play the part of integrator, offering a way for the spectator to be served one-of-a-kind experiences while the other parties also benefit through customer data, fan engagement and additional in-stadium revenue opportunities

For those who have bemoaned the decline in crowds, this new approach would make the stadium experience more compelling than it is today, bringing back spectators who would have a superior experience to watching the game on the TV. And the same model works in a whole range of settings from live music to clothes shopping where, for example, a customer could watch the latest runway fashions, hear pundits discussing high street trends and use augmented reality mirrors to see how items of clothing would look.

There is little doubt that these kinds of valuable experiences can and should be monetised. Telcos have a significant role to play, but they need to evolve from the way they have done business over the last two decades if they are to reap the rewards. Consumers in Asia are ready for more than just faster downloads; the question is whether telcos are able to play their part, not only in delivering new experiences, but in enabling the new business models that become possible.

Customer experience key to winning digital banking race


Attributed to Ashwini Gillen, Regional Vice President of Sales at Twilio Inc | 25 March 2022

Ashwini Gillen

Regional Vice President of Sales at Twilio Inc

Asia Pacific is undergoing a digital banking revolution. A recent study predicted that every market in the region will see at least two new digital banks emerge to challenge incumbents by 2025. In Singapore for example, four digital bank licenses were granted by the Monetary Authority of Singapore, with the new entrants expected to begin operations from early 2022. 

Compared to traditional banks, these “neobanks” are born digital. They have no physical branches and offer all their products and services online, which enables them to provide greater convenience and innovative features. Examples include electronic know-your customer (e-KYC) services through video call verification, using interactive voice response (IVR) to resolve self-service issues, as well as omnichannel Customer Service Centres that engage customers on their preferred communications platform. These features have made the public sit up and take notice. A McKinsey report revealed that more than 70% of consumers in Singapore are open to migrating to digital-first banks, signalling the potential stiff competition incumbents could face in the year ahead. 

However, the incumbents are not ones to rest on their laurels. Many have launched their own initiatives to bring their offerings into the digital age. Standard Chartered Bank (SCB) has doubled down on efforts to strengthen their digital banking services in the region; they launched their first virtual bank in Hong Kong last year and are moving fast on their joint-venture in Singapore

Whether incumbents or new entrants, all financial institutions can step up to the challenge of shaping the digital banking landscape. This requires getting closer to customers to not only anticipate but exceed their expectations, while providing a data secure and regulatory compliant environment. 

Transforming customer experience with a communication core

Today’s business landscape is dominated by the customer – it is all about what they want, when they want it. Everything from product features, design, display, simplicity of use, and even packaging for physical goods, must be designed with the user in mind. 

The pandemic has accentuated this trend. Customers are paying closer attention to organisations that can best meet their needs during a time of fear and uncertainty. In Singapore, an overwhelming 70% of consumers want personalised digital customer experiences;  a sentiment that is echoed across the APAC region.

So, how do you make sure your customers feel seen and heard? A crucial starting point is a reliable, personalised omnichannel customer engagement service. This is not just a nice-to-have—it is the very basis of customer experience differentiation. 

For example, a home loan application with all its requirements and documentation can get overwhelming, especially for first-time home owners. Providing customers with the necessary guidance, be it through a simple text message or video call with screen-share form walk-through, can reassure them and make such complex journeys less intimidating.  

Financial institutions that understand and effectively address their customers’ needs will then find themselves in pole position to capture and win over a growing audience. 

Charting a clear path to success 

One thing is clear: consumers are increasingly demonstrating a growing preference for digital interactions. But with consumers either “dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” with website or in-app chat customer support experience more than 25% of the time, businesses and financial institutions alike have a huge opportunity to reinvent their digital offerings and optimise the customer journey. 

To capitalise on this opportunity, it is crucial neo and traditional banks play to their strengths and chart a clear path to success with the tools they have in hand. 

Digital banks already have the advantage of incorporating modern technology like the cloud and big data as part of their core infrastructure from the onset. Unencumbered by legacy technology, they are more nimble, faster to market, and equipped to create digital-first customer experiences in line with changing demands. 

At the same time, incumbents are sitting on a treasure trove of data and resources; they already have an existing customer base, strong governance, and capabilities in risk and compliance. These invaluable assets serve as a huge leg-up over neobanks in deploying powerful digital tools like machine learning, chatbots and messaging to create tailored, meaningful experiences for customers. 

In the long run, the key differentiator for both incumbents and digital banks lies in how they tap their strengths and prioritise their digital transformation goals. Above all, they must keep their customers at the heart of what they do and incorporate customer friendly digital touchpoints for key parts of the customer journey,

Pulling ahead in a crowded race

The number of new entrants into the financial services industry will continue to grow. As competition intensifies in the coming years, both traditional banks and neobanks have a relatively equal opportunity to pull ahead. A banking experience that prioritises digitally connected consumers will emerge as the key differentiating factor between those who succeed, and those who end up falling behind. 

With both neo and traditional banks raising the bar on services and experiences, consumers are the ones who will come up on top. It won’t be long before long queues and hours on hold with your bank on the phone becomes a thing of the past.  

The need for an enhanced digital identity framework in our current era


Q&A attributed to Arvind Swami, Director FSI, Red Hat Asia Pacific | 24 March 2022

Arvind Swami

Director FSI, Red Hat Asia Pacific

Since digital payments are becoming increasingly popular, users are perhaps more vulnerable to cybersecurity attacks than ever before. The answer to this increased risk? A self-sovereign identity (SSI)—especially for the financial services sector.

What is Digital Identity and why is it important?

First, we need to understand what a digital identity is. A digital identity is simply a collection of electronically stored features associated with a uniquely identifiable individual. Examples can include usernames and passwords, date of birth, and electronic transactions. Typically, we establish multiple digital identities, including creating new accounts for each service provider we enrol with, or through third party login mechanisms (although these are generally considered insecure for financial services).

When we establish a new account for each new sensitive service we sign up for, we may potentially face two problems:

  1. We create several identities with multiple providers, all different but each representing the same person—all of which are vulnerable to identity theft with no easy or standard way to verify them.
  2. We have no way of knowing when our identity is used, by whom, or when/if to revoke consent to usage of that particular identity.

What are the principal drivers that necessitate a shift towards a more secure digital identity?

The pandemic forced everyone to go digital. Many companies were unprepared for the necessary changes in procedures and infrastructure associated with the wide acceptance of remote work. Network providers were challenged by an unprecedented rising demand of traffic, and many service providers had difficulty anticipating and enabling the corresponding client increase.

Impacts of the pandemic on the consumer side were also immediate, including both quantifiable and behavioral elements. Already an established trend, the virtual consumption model has only accelerated in momentum, based on convenience, health perception/protection, and regulatory mandates. There was a significantly smaller proportion of payments being made in-person as isolation kept people at home.

Customers were being advised to avoid cash for hygienic reasons and many businesses now discourage cash. As a result, contactless cards and digital wallets saw a spike in usage—reinforced by the preferred usage habits of newer generations. In Asia Pacific, digital payments will continue to increase, with a predicted average annual growth rate of 16% from 2020 to 2025.

Over the duration of the pandemic, it became clear that digital identity became of paramount importance as an answer to ever-present security issues and amplified them. In just a year between May 2020 and May 2021, there was a 168% increase in cyberattacks in Asia Pacific. Within the financial sector globally, the number of online card fraud attempts increased by 23%, according to Feedzai’s Financial Crime Report Q3 2021 Edition

How can we protect our identity in the digital world?

In the physical world, we’ve adopted standard and verifiable practices for obtaining and maintaining permanent identity-related documentation, such as a passport or driver’s license. Either of these documents are accepted globally as identification medium and they are trusted as such.

A self-sovereign identity (SSI) can be the solution for the digital world. SSI is a term or approach used to describe the digital movement that recognizes an individual should own and control their identity without the intervening administrative authorities. It is a two-party relationship model, with no third party coming between the individual and the issuer. For example, SSI begins with a digital “wallet” that contains digital credentials. It acts like a physical wallet where a consumer carries credentials issued by others, such as a passport or driver’s license.

For SSI to work, it should consist of the following four basic flows and elements:

  1. Decentralized Identifiers (DID): a channel to prove your identity and exchange verifiable digital credentials where there will be no central registration authority, as every DID is registered directly on a blockchain or distributed network.
  2. Decentralized Key Management System (DKMS): a proposed open standard for managing the private keys you need for DIDs, which includes robust, highly usable key recovery. DKMS key recovery supports both offline recovery (“paper wallet”) and social recovery (“trustee”) methods.
  3. DID Authentication: a simple standard way for a DID owner to authenticate by proving control of a private key.
  4. Verifiable Credentials: a format for interoperable, cryptographically verifiable digital credentials being defined by the W3C Verifiable Claims Working Group.

Consumers will benefit in instances such as loan processing (with accompanying credit check verification) or when establishing a new bank account or a new internet contract (with identity and residency manual verification). Service providers will benefit too, as they will be able to minimize fraudulent account creation and simultaneously protect both parties from phishing attacks.

Whether driven by new realities in consumer behavior that might become permanent or taken in response to regulatory issues which hope to enhance security and limit fraudulent activity, the concept of robust digital identity has deservedly risen in importance.

Network Security for Financial Institutions


John Yang, Vice President of APJ at Progress | 11 March 2022

How to Find and Prevent Breaches with Logs, Maintain Compliance

John Yang, Vice President of APJ at Progress

A whopping 35% of all data breaches impact Financial Services organizations, according to Forbes. These companies contain a treasure trove of valuable data, and intensely complex financial IT systems with their huge number of interconnections offer ample ways for cybercriminals to break in.

“Financial services firms are 300 times more likely than other companies to be targeted by a cyberattack,” the Boston Consulting Group argued. “Dealing with those attacks and their aftermath carries a higher cost for banks and wealth managers than for any other sector.”

These attacks seemingly never stop, and many incidents stemmed from employees failing to follow their company’s policies on security and data protection.

COVID has only made this worse, argues Fintech News. “COVID-19 is blamed for a 238% increase in cyberattacks in FinTech, with 80% of firms worldwide increasing their digital security infrastructures,” Fintech found.

In this dire situation, how can Financial Institutions address their pain points?

Financial services firms face multiple security and compliance issues, including:

  1. Compliance: Taking improper care of data leads to compliance violations and fines.
  2. Identities and Authentication: Financial institutions must not only control access to data and from employees, but IT systems must also be protected through proper credentials.
  3. Security: A financial institution breach is front-page news, invading customer privacy and harming the organization’s reputation.

The solution to all these problems is up-to-date network monitoring.


Reporting is critical to compliance efforts. Reporting keeps IT aware of potential problems that could result in a breach, and in the case of an incident, compliance requires reporting on what exactly happened. Network monitoring handles both by collecting, analyzing and even archiving logs that tell the activity tail.

Identities and Authentication

Cracking an internal IT system is hacker gold. The network monitoring solution, for instance, shows all the network elements as well as how and by whom they are configured and used. Protect this vital resource with tight credentials based on user identity and strong authentication.

Find Breaches Fast

With a modern network monitoring tool, you can set up email notifications and alerts for changes to the configuration of network devices, and audit configuration against defined policies. Advanced tools also let users view and compare device configurations in the device properties page, and if configurations are lost, network device configuration backups can be automated for any device that supports Telnet or SSH.

Monitor Network for Suspicious Activity

The ideal solution will give the FI complete visibility into the status of network devices, systems, and applications, and see network devices, servers, virtual machines, cloud and wireless environments in context. Users should be able to click on any device to get immediate access to a wealth of related network monitoring settings and reports so that they can see how everything is connected and get answers faster.

Similarly, FIs need a solution that provides detailed visibility into their network traffic to see which users, applications, and protocols are consuming bandwidth. This insight allows the user to set up bandwidth usage policies, and detect unusual usage that could indicate a security issue.

The most advanced solutions can also help you avoid the negative consequences of accidental or malicious network device configuration changes with a configuration management add-on that sets up network devices to send an SNMP trap to trigger a notification whenever a configuration changes. Action policies in the alert center can even be set up to automatically initiate a backup, add or remove users, or update firmware.

Of course, none of these capabilities matter much if the user is not getting actionable alerts and reporting from their network monitoring solution. That’s why it’s critical to choose a solution with a robust alerting system that can let the team know as soon as things start to go awry.

Common mistakes

Alert overload: It may sound counterintuitive but it is true – less is more. A perfect example is a financial institution that was repeating the same actions every two minutes. When a system became unavailable, they’d get an email alert – even when it was only down for a minute. Every two minutes after that, the network monitoring tool kept emailing. They got so used to it, people started ignoring the alerts. When there are too many alerts, people tune them out.  

Make sure emails only go out when someone has to log in and do something. If  an email is being sent from the monitoring system, but no one had to log in and do something – this is spam and the system should be reconfigured.     

Help or hindrance

The systems designed to help – IT alerting tools – can overwhelm IT. Ovum research into banks found that 40% get hit with an average of 160,000 mistaken, redundant, or irrelevant alerts every day. The culprit is alert overload from myriad security tools. Ovum found that 73% of banks had at least 25 separate security tools.

The answer clearly is to implement a network monitoring solution that intuitively addresses all the Financial Institution’s compliance, authentication and security challenges on a single platform.

Unlocking Business Opportunities and Resiliency for Financial Services


Attributed to: Robert Dewar, Vice President, Financial Services, Asia Pacific | 11 March 2022

The financial services industry has become a hotspot of digital innovation, driven by changing customer expectations, heightened competitions by new entrants and incumbents, stringent regulations and technological advancements. In 2020, the Singapore government launched the Singapore Financial Data Exchange (SGFinDex) to enable individuals to better understand their overall financial health and assist in holistic financial planning.

Embracing the digital world is a strategic imperative to ride the economic recovery wave and build business resiliency. The pandemic exposed many productivity gaps between companies that adequately invested in digital platforms to continue business operations with a remote workforce, and those who were still reliant on manual processes.

In fact, Singapore saw the largest rise in digital banking investments during the pandemic in 2021. Financial institutions are dedicating bigger budgets to boost digital offerings and accelerating the integration of new technology and innovation.

While there have been rising investments and momentum in digitalisation across the region, Singapore’s financial industry still has untapped opportunity in the Intelligent Automation and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) space, highlighting significant potential for growth. According to the latest Blue Prism “RPA In the Financial Services Sector” research, less than one-third of Singaporean organisations (28 percent) are utilising RPA solutions and technologies.

So, what is RPA & Intelligent Automation, and how can FSI’s truly transform the workforce and processes?

Understanding RPA as a form of Intelligent Automation

RPA is a type of software that mimics the activities of a human being in carrying out a task within a process. As Leslie Willcocks, Professor at London School of Economics explains, the digital workers “takes robot out of the human”. It takes on repetitive work tasks quickly and accurately, freeing up the human workforce to take on other tasks that requires human touch, such as emotional intelligence.

Traditionally, the route to automation has been primarily driven by cost reduction. Now, companies are using automation to operate more efficiently and productively, and as a lever to better manage organisational risk, grow revenue, and transform the customer experience. Regionally, organisations who have adopted RPA reported an overall improvement of business operations. This includes error and cost reduction, empowering the human workforce to focus on higher value tasks and increasing organisational efficiencies.

Through the lens of FSI’s, a lower price point of operation can be achieved with digital workers. With a digital workforce, innovation can be executed directly by the business and does not require new test environments or deployment of people. Additionally, these executions are operated within the governance of the IT department and industry-leading security standards of the digital workers.

Key to revitalising legacy systems

Financial services organisations are bounded by ever-changing stringent regulations and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS)’s compliance measures, such as Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) scheme. Albeit mandatory and important, manual processes to meet and manage these requirements are resource-intensive and time-consuming. This is coupled with the growing expectations of consumers and businesses for speedy, high-quality experience when applying for a loan, credit card or bank account. With thinning brand loyalty, many of these customers would simply approach competitors.

The growing amount of task repetition, constant data re-keying and manual checking also means that human workers could understandably lose focus and make mistakes in areas such as KYC and AML checking. Siloed systems, often based on spreadsheets, error in data and lack of data storage standardisation can also slow down many business processes.

To breathe life into legacy systems and process infrastructure, banks are using advanced RPA. As an upgrade from their traditional counterparts, these sophisticated digital workers act as a scalable counterpart that collaborates with humans daily. Powered with artificial intelligence, cognitive learning and natural language processing, these digital workers can carry out multiple checks simultaneously and complete fields in a loan application automatically. Missing customer information and proactive progress updates are flagged and delivered to human workers, easing their workloads, and freeing up precious time to focus on building human relationships. Furthermore, given the fact that RPA can be improved with the help of artificial intelligence, the potential is limitless.

For example, compliance teams within asset management firms in APAC have implemented workflows, including search through various internal banking and document management systems to collate it into client records, and have reported substantial cost savings associated with extensive internal operational efficiencies.

Unlocking business opportunities with speed and agility

Today’s intelligent and advanced automation solutions enable organisations to respond to operational challenges with great speed and agility, while also breathing new life into legacy systems. Innovation and organisational transformation that were once cost prohibitive is now achievable. Automation of processes also boosts organisational resiliency as these digital workers can handle multiple processes simultaneously, alleviating the human workforce from mundane, time-intensive tasks, and are able to operate round-the-clock.

While these digital workers are streamlining checks and processes, employees are better able to utilise their time to innovate, and forge stronger relationships with customers and stakeholders. Optimising processes end-to-end, these organisations are also better poised to innovate, offer wider portfolio of products, and reimagine the customer experience. As nearly four in 10 Singaporean organisations are looking to invest approximately up to 75 percent of their total automation budget in RPA in the next three years, organisations in the financial services industry ought to look towards implementing new and transformative ways of operating and unlock business opportunities and resiliency. 

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