The digital wave of innovations has compelled industries across the board to digitise their operations and services to not only remain modern and relevant, but to also value add for consumers and businesses.1
It’s a sharp learning curve, but one that cannot be avoided.
The Legal Field
Highly esteemed and set in centuries’ old tradition, the legal profession is often viewed as an inherently rigid and inflexible structure that has long resisted change, let alone digitisation. In Malaysia, the legal industry is hesitant in embracing digital innovations, as Adeline Chin, the co-founder of LawTech Malaysia, explains: “Malaysian law practitioners must mull over the cost and skills required for an organisational digitisation to take place, while in-house departments must deliberate on the availability and relevancy of technological products within their jurisdiction.”
But progressive strides are being made, and Chin –via LawTech – is part of the movement to digitise the legal landscape. “LawTech is an agent of change which aims to foster innovation and entrepreneurship in the Malaysian legal industry through effective community building and education. The organisation creates platforms for technologists, legal professionals, legal tech enthusiasts and cross-industry stakeholders to create, innovate, share, adopt and incubate technological solutions.”
Its annual flagship event, LawTech Hackathon, is one such collaborative platform used by lawyers, techies, students and entrepreneurs to create functional technological products to address specific problem statements derived from the legal industry. “During the 2018 edition, one of the problem statements given to the hackathon teams was ‘Increasing Access to Justice’.
“Legal justice culminates from the collaborative efforts of three main components of the legal industry, i.e. the legal practice, the stakeholder industries and the judiciary. Unfortunately, a communication gap lies between these components, but the development of technology can fill the void to improve legal justice processes for both the people who need critical help and those who can provide assistance in a timelier and cost-efficient manner,” Chin says.
(From left) Adeline Chin, Daniel Lui, Melissa Lim and Jenna Beh. Chin, Lui and Beh are co-directors, while Lim is currently a Fellow of LawTechMY.
“The teams who took up the challenge created minimum viable products (MVPs) ranging from apps that can help with refugee identification and communication to a free-to-use legal knowledge app to assist the public in getting immediate feedback on legal queries, and a platform for pro bono cases that functions based on a crowd-funding concept.
“A few MVPs are being continuously developed as well; one MVP that has been sponsored for further research and development is a knowledge portal for syariah law. The winning team that developed a chatbot contract automation system has also been invited by Microsoft Malaysia for an MVP demonstration during their Corporate Counsel Conference 2018.”
The 2019 edition of LawTech's hackathon promises to be bigger and better, and will be hosted alongside the SUPERNOVA Summit this October. “We aim to connect hackathon teams to a wider network of potential collaborators and investors. The hackathon and summit this year will be a convergence of lawtech, fintech and regtech verticals,” says Chin, adding that the summit is the first of its kind with converged verticals.
The Tourism Industry
The brick and mortar Hwa Yik Tour & Travel has been in the business of tourism for 36 years. “We offer visa application and air ticketing services; we are also the passenger sales agent for the Genting Dream Cruise,” says managing director Simon Saw, who is also advisor for the Penang chapter of the Malaysian Chinese Tourism Association.
To remain competitive, especially with the mushrooming of online travel agents, “better customer service and internet speed, as well as synergy between stakeholders are vital,” Saw says. “Consumers are very resourceful these days. They do their own research first before approaching travel agents to make price comparisons. For our part, our travel consultants generate a list of airline fares through our airline reservation system. There are three major systems – Amadeus, Sabre and Travelport – in the market today for making airline bookings.
“Customers can choose the cheapest air ticket but the connecting time will obviously be longer or they might need to stay the night, while the expensive ones offer the best connecting time. For online booking, payment is made on the spot. But for us travel agents, though the fee is slightly higher, we are still able to hold customers’ reservations for a few days. What’s more, we also provide the itinerary, visa application and travel insurance – for one lump sum.”
Worryingly, low internet speed hinders Saw from providing better service to his customers. “Customers want things fast; this means the info must be generated and gathered quickly. But we lack high internet speed. Since last December, we’ve been trying to negotiate with a local internet provider to increase our Wi-Fi speed – we only managed to raise it to 8Mbps, and this is shared between the 20 computers in our office.”
He also adds that though Penang has a high number of tourists, specifically Mainland Chinese, this does not necessarily translate to an increase in business dealings. “In the past, we used to deal with local Chinese travel agents since tourists generally make tour bookings through them and the agents will in turn book through us. Now, with technology, the middlemen are slow to get business or are being cut out entirely because all tour bookings are done online, e.g. air tickets, hotels and even transportation on the ground. When they come here, tourists prefer using Grab to get around. We don’t have many international flights coming in either – this is another thing that Penang must push hard for.”
Simon Saw of Hwa Yik Tour & Travel.
Saw also urges state tourism-related bodies like Penang Global Tourism to share detailed statistics so that they can better curate and personalise customers’ travel experiences. “Currently, we only receive monthly data on the number of tourists coming in from countries like Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore.”
The Financial Sector
The application of financial technology – fintech for short – has risen in tandem with the rapid digitisation of the banking sector. “Collaboration with fintech is a central part of our digital transformation journey,” says Domenic Fuda, group managing director and chief executive officer of Hong Leong Bank (HLB).
“Collaboration between banks and fintech bring together the best and brightest minds and we have done this through the HLB LaunchPad programme, which is now an ongoing initiative carried out together with our partners Cradle Fund, Malaysian Business Angel Network, the Asean Angel Alliance as well as the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation. Through this platform, we develop and nurture tech-savvy start-ups as part of the transformation of the financial services industry itself.”
Domenic Fuda, group managing director and chief executive officer of Hong Leong Bank (HLB).
He cites the online portal HL Connect Lite as one of the many examples of how HLB has been integrating fintech services for clients. “Through our online portal, we empower SMEs with holistic digital solutions through collaboration with the likes of Biztory, Kakitangan, SimpleTax and WeChat.”
However, despite fintech’s strong presence, Fuda says the banking institution’s business model and its position in the banking supply chain are mostly unaltered. “With their relatively smaller size, these companies are able to focus on resolving certain issues faced by customers, issues which are too impractical or too cost-inefficient for larger organisations such as banks to address. Although the delivery of services may share the same platform, the need to be served is different, and by providing a different set of products and services, our business model and position within the banking supply chain remains largely unchanged. Working together in collaboration with fintech allows for a more effective means to provide customers with a simpler, faster and more efficient banking experience,” he explains.
The transition to a cashless system is equally generating interest among the Penang public, and in line with HLB’s ethos of being Digital-at-the-Core, new digital facilities are being introduced to improve merchant and customer experience, including the All-in-One Point-of-Sales (POS) merchant terminals that offer acceptance of all payment methods.
“Such offerings and facilities encourage the public to move towards cashless payment options, especially with the high level of security and traceability assured to the consumer by their financial institutions. In fact, the traceable feature of digital payment throughout the transactional journey helps to fight scams, fraud and money laundering.
“From a data protection angle, we are compliant with the rules and regulations, as well as the laws surrounding this issue. Considerable focus is equally directed at providing our customers with an application which is easy to use – but also safe and secure – for them to conduct their banking transactions. We think it’s important that consumers and merchants recognise the fundamental benefit of digital payment and the idea of a cashless society, which is to improve efficiency and productivity and to provide a seamless experience,” he says.
Regina Hoo is a Broadcasting and Journalism graduate from the University of Wolverhampton.