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Fund transfers with just mobile numbers
The Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) is working with Banking Computer Services (BCS) to map mobile numbers to bank account numbers; in the case of businesses, it is the unique entity number (UEN) - which is registered with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) - that will be mapped to the account number.
BCS is the current operator of FAST, the two-year-old online interbank funds transfer system which Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) managing director Ravi Menon describes as grossly under-utilised; a barrier to higher usage is the need to remember bank account numbers.
The ABS is also working with BCS to develop a Central Addressing Scheme (CAS) so that payments made through FAST can also be made using only the recipient's mobile number, identity card (NRIC) number or UEN.
ABS director Ong Ai Boon listed the following seven banks which are working on the CAS: DBS Bank, OCBC Bank and United Overseas Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, HSBC, Citibank and Maybank. "They account for the majority of current FAST transactions," she said.
The ABS is also helping to develop a unified point-of-sale (UPOS) terminal which can accept all major card brands, including those that are contactless or embedded in smartphones.
"We are working on the back end . . . so that each UPOS is able to read each card's and each bank's unique loyalty or rewards programme," she said.
UOB has already rolled out 3,000 UPOS at 7-Eleven and other retail stores, and 10,000 more will follow over the next two years, said Dennis Khoo, the bank's head of retail banking in Singapore.
Major supermarket chains such as Cold Storage, FairPrice, and Sheng Shiong will gradually install these UPOS terminals.
On the CAS, Mr Khoo said the banks have gone through all the security considerations and are confident it will be safe to use mobile numbers, because these would have been verified by the banks at the time their customers opened their accounts.
"We are starting with mobile numbers. We know your mobile number and it's used to send you SMSes," he said.
Those running small businesses - school bus drivers and contractors who come to homes for small repairs, for example - will also benefit from using FAST, said Mr Khoo.
Asked about older people who may not be so comfortable with the move towards a cashless society, he replied that the banks do work in tandem to accommodate different groups of customers.
"We can't just automate everything and abandon other segments who are not technology savvy.
"Banks have to keep customers in mind . . . including those who want face-to-face interaction with banks," he said.
He noted that older bank customers are those who ask for big fonts, which is something the younger ones do not need.
But even as Singapore aspires to near-cashlessness, Sweden has realised that there can be too much of a good thing: Svenska Handelsbanken AB this week fired its 48-year-old chief executive Frank Vang-Jensen for moving too fast with digitisation.
The new CEO, Anders Bouvin, has underscored the importance of face-time with the average man in the street, Bloomberg reported.