Cyber Village: Collaborators in digital transformation
Cyber Village was ahead of the curve when it launched a raft of ecommerce products in the early 1990s dot com boom - perhaps even a little too far ahead at the time, admits CEO Yee Bing Shieh. When the dot com bubble burst, the company was forced to pivot its digital ecommerce technologies, a move that spurred its expansion into providing solutions for the insurance and financial services sector.
Since then, Cyber Village has grown to be a leader in what Shieh terms “digital engagement tech” for various customer transformation journeys across the ASEAN region. Shieh has helmed the company - now part of the Silverlake Axis group – for almost 15 years through waves of technological advancement, yet none as exciting as the shifts facing the business today.
Despite its current incumbent status, the pioneer spirit of Cyber Village’s dot com startup days has clearly anchored deep into the firm’s DNA: “We are very conscious of the need to change all the time,” says Shieh. For Shieh, algorithms and apps are blunt instruments without a guiding, human touch, and a collaborative vision. She sees these as catalysts for agility in Cyber Village’s digital innovation processes. “We look at digital tech as our core bread and butter, but in the end, tech can’t be an offering unless it is married to business. We work backwards with our customers through ‘design thinking’ processes; taking the business reasons and incorporating that into our tech R&D to inform the kinds of products we roll out.”
Growth in COVID-19
Has the recent pandemic changed things? COVID-19 has certainly spurred growth opportunities for digital tech companies like Cyber Village. Shieh highlights one of the company’s recent innovations, a video engagement platform: “Our Insurance clients use it to assist in their claims processing. For example, automotive workshops, property loss adjusters and insurance claims ops are able to use the platform to assess and process damage claims without face-to-face interactions.” With the pandemic, the customer mindset to digitise has increased by leaps and bounds. Cyber Village saw not only an accelerated subscription demand for its video engagement platform, but also an expansion in the range of its use cases to sales management, customer onboarding, and even to adjacent industries such as health and financial services.
With the ongoing acceleration towards digitisation, industries are also seeing a paradigm shift towards blurring of boundaries. Shieh opines that clients are moving towards what they call ‘Tech As a Business’ rather than ‘Tech As Ops’, embedding into changing digital lifestyles and social ecosystems - and at times becoming tech platform players themselves. She sees this as enriching opportunities for Cyber Village’s partnership model. “We have aggressively moved our business models and technologies to SaaS and cloud tech; we see ourselves working as digital business partners with our clients. We put our skin in the game, so to speak. This also ramps up our tech innovations with business needs and market validations.” The company’s focus on technologies and capabilities, such as micro-services, embedded plug-ins, white labels and machine learning, is “playing a big role here for our clients to move quickly, helping them create digital products and services from minimum viable products to large scale ecosystem platforms and collaborations”.
Pioneering Islamic insurance
Most recently, this philosophy has underpinned Cyber Village’s seven-year partnership with leading Islamic insurance provider PruBSN.
“PruBSN is a very positive, customer-focused organisation with clear business goals,” she says. “Having said that, they are also open to experimentation in terms of new technology, as well as how we can actually come together with them to co-create new ideas.”
The latest upshot of this collaborative approach is the launch of an industry-first Takaful Islamic peer-to-peer family insurance application to the market. Here, the PruBSN team worked closely with Cyber Village on the product, leveraging one of Cyber Village’s new tech innovations – a P2P platform, with peer group sharing features developed on a ledger architecture, complete with digital wallet capabilities.
“It's a major social innovation in terms of how it can allow the participants to join the Islamic insurance programme and actually understand what it means to have shared insurance, or mutual protection in a peer group or community, all via an end-to-end digital experience,” Shieh explains. “There are no physical, manual processes here; it's all delivered through a mobile app”.
"These are the kinds of co-creation projects that we live for. These are things that we actually look forward to because it then lifts us beyond just doing tech or delivering tech capabilities by actually becoming a digital business partner for our clients, such as PruBSN.” This collaboration is an example of how Cyber Village sees itself providing business value through its technologies. “The path becomes a more symbiotic and synergistic relationship,” Shieh concludes.
Five minutes with Helene Panzarino, Associate Director, LIBF
Name: Helene Panzarino
Role: Associate Director for Digital Banking and Finance
Company: The London Institute of Banking and Finance (LIBF)
We all know the companies, but what about the people behind them? Here, we find out more about Panzarino’s background, why she’s an advocate for entrepreneurs, and her take on US community bank heroism.
Who was your childhood hero, and why?
My dad. It may seem a bit of a cliche, but for someone who left school aged nine, he instilled in me the value of education and self-belief. He also had enormous pride and confidence in me and my abilities. He was my biggest supporter and a wonderfully innocent and kind person who helped shape the person I am today.
What's the best piece of advice you ever received?
‘Mentors are great, but advocates are better.’ I discovered that it's much harder for entrepreneurs to find true advocates, so this is something I try to do for other people.
Which activity are you most looking forward to doing when the pandemic is over?
I can't wait to go to Terroni Brothers in Clerkenwell, London, for some authentic Italian pastries and an espresso that I haven't had to make myself! I wrote most of my books in cafes, and I find a change of scenery also helps me think outside of the box on all my projects.
Is there a personal achievement from 2020 of which you are particularly proud?
I am most proud of having my second book, Reinventing Banking and Finance: Frameworks to Navigate Global Fintech Innovation, published by Kogan.
This book's schedule was very tight, and I was fortunate to have Alessandro Hatami, a good friend and industry peer, as co-author. We've received industry accolades, powerful endorsements, and many compliments on the clarity of thought and content, so it made it even more worthwhile.
What inspires you in fintech today?
I am hugely inspired by the way community banks in the US have become the unexpected heroes of the pandemic, getting money into accounts quickly but also being there for their customers as trusted partners.
Many community banks have been big enough to recognise that they could do more to support their customers, and it has been hugely inspiring to see them partner with the fintech community to drive operational and customer service improvement.
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