This neobank tech startup’s AI platform offers personalised service to users
How about a bank telling you to be careful about a purchase you are going to make because it might lead to cash shortage at the end of the month, or being able to figure out on its own that the banking transactions on a smartphone are illegal.
This could be the new era of digital banking where all the transactions are conducted on a smartphone with a personal touch. UNObank, founded in January, 2020, by Manish Bhai, Kalidas Ghose, and Puneet Gupta is the new digital challenger bank.
The three founders, with extensive experience in the domains of banking and technology, incorporated their Singapore based startup DigibankASIA in January this year with the technology centre in Bengaluru, India. UNO and UNObank are the brands owned by this startup.
According to the co-founders, they want to challenge the entire status quo of digital banking as it exists today as they feel it is very transactional in nature and cannot cater to the varied requirements of the individual account holders.
Manish Bhai, Co-founder and CEO, UNObank, says, “All banks still seem like instruments of transaction while the best digital experience is based on the needs of the end-users.”
The team at UNObank feels that banks can play a much more personalised role, where it can cater to various needs like education, health, holidays, loans, retirements, and the list goes on.
“Banks have a big opportunity to play a deeper role in any individual’s life,” adds Manish.
Towards this end, UNObank has come up with an artificial intelligence (AI) platform called Cognito, which can capture all the data and provide extremely personalised solutions to individual account holders.
A very deep tech engineering has gone into the creation of Cognito, which combines multiple disciplines like machine learning, big data, and analytics. It also provides a very simple and easy-to-use interface for the end customer.
A case in point about the Cognito platform is its flexibility as it can automatically detect what kind of mobile technologies are available - like 3G, 4G, or 5G, and synchronise accordingly.
“The entire platform is highly composable just like a Rubik’s cube, and one can move blocks around to allow the bank to reorganise itself,” says Puneet, Co-founder and CTO, UNObank.
UNObank founders: Manish Bhai (left) and Puneet Gupta
Puneet says the technology platform allows them to offer better banking service with low-cost penetration, which existing banks cannot provide.
“It takes about three to five years to set up a bank, but we should be able to do the same in three months through the cognito platform,” he adds.
The confidence of UNObank stems from the fact that it has a very user-centric approach. Puneet says it has created personas for the underbanked and unbanked customers. These include aspirational youth, salaried employees in their mid-forties, those looking at credit or at savings options, etc.
“We can create unique banking products based on individual needs leveraging our technology platform,” says Puneet.
These can be as simple as a universal card that has both debit and credit functions, restricting spends, personalised loan offers, etc. UNObank says it clearly understands that its customers may not be super savvy in using digital products, but wants to keep it as simple as possible.
As the entire banking is done on a smartphone, UNObank’s technology platform allows one-tap service where it will provide anything the customer seeks.
At the core of UNObank’s technology architecture is its partnership with Amazon Web Services (AWS), which Puneet believes provides the optimum solution in terms of service, security, and robustness.
As a digital bank, security remains the top-most priority, and the CTO says that each of the services run in fully managed secured containers.
AWS also provides UNObank the scalability and architectural freedom where it can increase or decrease the size of their banking operations depending on the requirements.
“Working with AWS has allowed us to define new technology architecture,” says Puneet.
On the business front, UNObank is at the present engaged with regulators in the Philippines to obtain the necessary approvals to start its banking operations in that country. It is expected to launch in 2021.
Talking about its business model, UNObank is allowed to operate as a financial institution and will be very similar to a conventional bank of lending and deposits, but the edge with this technology startup will be its AI platform. It said it will also look at licensing its technology platform if financial institutions are keen to digitise its banking operations.
From the competition perspective, there are quite a few neo-banking startups. But Puneet says their USP is that they are able to provide end-to-end solutions, which looks into all financial aspects of an individual.
The key markets for UNObank will be South East and South Asia, where the startup will look to expand using both its own licence as well as Over-the-Top (OTT) model. The founding team believes there are a lot of mid-tier banks in these geographies who can onboard to the digital highway through their Cognito platform.
UNObank offers a new vista in neo banking where one launches a pure digital bank, which is attuned to the needs of the market without having to worry about the legacy infrastructure.