E-payments pave the way for a closer-knit Asean: Report

Filipina tourist Gretchen Olano ordering ice cream from a street vendor in Singapore's Orchard Road in 2018. Inter-connected instant payment systems in the region could spur Asean integration, StanChart analysts have said in a report.
APRIL 25, 2019 - 11:11 AM

CASH is still king in South-east Asia, but a slew of digital payment methods could make regional transactions much simpler, one bank has said in a new report.

These methods include real-time payments - whether with a pay-to-account number, or using mobile phone numbers or national registration and tax identification numbers, which has been rolled out in Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia.

Meanwhile, the take-up of mobile wallets and the digitisation of cash and cheques could also increase cash management efficiency and optimise working capital, among other advantages.

Analysts at lender Standard Chartered (StanChart) said in their report: “The implementation of instant payments across most markets in Asean makes fund transfers faster, simpler, and more efficient. Instant payments clearing infrastructure is fast becoming the base for a number of innovative use cases across industries.”

Malaysian telecom service provider Maxis added in a statement: “The pay-to-proxy feature is a great solution for us to migrate the current refund payments via cheques to e-payments.

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“Most importantly, the real-time feature will help us better manage our cash flow and pay our customers or suppliers on time.”

On top of that, the StanChart report noted that the roll-out of national “pay now” schemes “is just the beginning of the next wave of instant payments capabilities”, as operators move towards regional connection capabilities.

Linking up instant payment systems across the region “will create opportunities for each national payments switch to expand and develop payments services”, they wrote, and “such cross-border collaboration can further drive Asean integration”.

“Instead of having to wait for days and incur administrative fees from banks, businesses and consumers can enjoy immediate payments routing and transfers via mobile numbers, in addition to real-time request-to-pay features for cross-border payments collections.”

Still, the researchers noted that cash is still the most popular way to pay in South-east Asia, making up more than 70 per cent of transactions in Indonesia and the Philippines, amid factors such as privacy concerns and smaller vendors’ reluctance to absorb the costs of e-payment.