By Jessie Yang | In today’s digital world, bank customers prefer to chat, email or call rather than walk into a traditional branch, take a ticket and wait for the next available person – who may not even be in the right position to answer their questions. Launched in 2015, Vietnam’s pioneering online and mobile bank Timo – the name stands for ‘time + money’ – is very different from the traditional banks because rather than focus on opening hundreds of branches across the country, it puts customer needs first and doesn’t charge any fees. “We make sure our online banking has multiple channels of communication available to customers with a stellar response rate to address any of their needs,” says Timo CEO Cameron Warden. The Timo Care team is composed of professional call-center agents who attend to incoming calls and can make outgoing calls to KYC, emails and chats through social channels that can offer immediate assistance. Faster, Safer, and Better With convenience, no transaction fees, and secure services, Timo is making people’s lives much more manageable. “This is possible with our first innovation – the lack of multiple branches – which allows us to keep overheads low,” says Warden. “By partnering with the local, forward thinking and well-established VPBank, Timo customers’ accounts are essentially a VPBank account and hence their money is safe. Plus, every customer convenience we provide is approached with a security-first mindset.” Timo mainly generates revenue from its partners. Besides VPBank, it collaborates with Sun Life Insurance, VinaCapital, Gotadi.com and from Card partners such as NAPAS and MasterCard. Timo customers can also use PayPal via the partnership with VPBank. “In order to bypass formal branches, we invite customers to our ‘Hangouts’, which are hybrid coffee shops/banking centers. The inspiration came from Founder Don Lam and his vision to deliver a completely new banking experience to customers that eliminates the pains of traditional banking,” Warden says. At the first Hangout in Ho Chi Minh City, Timo customers and non-customers can enjoy the coffee shop on the ground floor. Those wanting to open an account can meet with a Timo Customer Representative (TCR) and sign-up in about 15 minutes. Above this Hangout are Timo’s development headquarters, so getting customer feedback about new features is as simple as going to the Hangout and asking.
Aiming For Steady Growth As the first bank of its kind in Vietnam, creating Timo has not gone off without a hitch. Not having a branch network caused a problem in the early stages. But by partnering with VPBank and the NAPAS switch network, there are more than 16,000+ ATMs at Timo customers’ disposal, with no extra fees. It is also expanding the services offered at the bank machines. “As our locations are currently restricted to the top four cities – where the population is composed of young and tech-savvy professionals 25-40 years old – we have to make sure that customers in these regions will continue to use our service,” says Warden, referring to Hanoi, Danang, Ho Chi Minh City, and Can Tho. “We actively listen to customer feedback, making it the best credibility we have. Besides, referrals bring around 50% of new customers so we will retain such an advantage by regularly introducing features and products that our customers request.” Timo has high hopes for Vietnam’s FinTech ecosystem, which has been steadily rising, fueled by a surge in investor interest and the government’s recent policy to boost FinTech development. With representatives from State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) spearheading initiatives, some of Timo’s unique service innovations can be accelerated.
Other Features Besides the retail banking services Timo offers, it wants to benefit customers with lifestyle and wealth platforms. In addition to offering banking products, customers are able to pay for utility bills easily, top up their mobile credit, purchase airline tickets, and more with a few quick swipes. Without the hassle of entering card details, only two key pieces of information are required for customers to direct debit their Timo Spend Account. By doing so, it is able to remain competitive and improve services.
Future Plans While Timo focuses primarily on current and savings accounts in Vietnam, it is preparing to innovate and expand to other markets in the near future. For instance, offering microloans in the Philippines might be the key to gaining initial traction. For each new market in the region, Timo will do thorough research to understand which offerings will be most relevant in different locations. Applying a one-size-fits-all approach is what has left many banks falling behind or struggling to compete digitally, and Timo intends to learn from their mistakes. timo.vn
About Cameron Warden Cameron Warden joined Timo in 2016 as Chief Product Officer and soon transitioned to the role of CEO. His experience in developing digital products for international brands with Global Advertising Agencies positioned him well to lead the charge in reinventing the way consumers interact with banking and financial products in SEA.