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OCBC to cut half of teller jobs in next 2 years in digital banking push; all affected staff to be retrained

OCBC added that the branch network would remain "largely unchanged", even as the bank has set aside S$14 million to develop new automated teller machines (ATMs) and digital service kiosks in Singapore that function as “mini branches”.

OCBC Bank on Monday said it would cut half of its bank teller jobs in the next two years, with the staff affected being retrained to take on advisory roles at the 51 branches operated here currently by Singapore's second-largest bank. 

All OCBC bank tellers will be retrained over the next five years to be able to perform digital or advisory roles. The bank did not disclose the number of tellers it has currently in its media release.

"Even as OCBC transforms its branch operations to focus on more digital and advisory services, no tellers employed today will lose their jobs as a result and the existing network of bank branches will remain largely unchanged," the bank said. 

OCBC added that the branch network would remain "largely unchanged", even as the bank has set aside S$14 million to develop new automated teller machines (ATMs) and digital service kiosks in Singapore that function as “mini branches”. 

The two-year development of the new machines led to ATMs and digital kiosks being built that currently allow customers to perform 15 of the most frequent bank counter services such as cash deposits and larger withdrawals, simultaneous cash and coin deposits, as well as updating of personal details.

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It will install the latest ATMs and digital service kiosks at 35 of its branches by 2020.

Since the pilot launch of the new ATMs and digital service kiosks at eight OCBC branches in May this year, the branches have migrated close to 10 per cent of branch over-the-counter transactions to these machines and over 35,000 transactions have been performed.

The new ATMs and digital service kiosks include new digital technology capabilities such as facial and fingerprint scanners for biometric authentication and signature pads, which can be activated for customers’ use in the future.

By next year, the ATMs will be able to facilitate instant cheque encashment, so customers can scan their cash cheques at the ATM to receive the funds immediately. The new ATMs will also be able to dispense up to S$200,000 in cash in one transaction, in the customer’s preferred note denominations.

In light of this, the redeployed bank tellers at OCBC will become branch "digital ambassadors" and service executives or perform other advisory roles. The bank said the tellers would move into roles that allow them to take on "higher value-added" tasks that require decision-making or physical verification. This shift takes them away from repetitive menial counter tasks such as processing cash transactions, which currently make up close to 90 per cent of transactions performed at branch teller counters. 

As it is, over the past five years, with digitalisation impacting footfall into bank branches, OCBC’s bank teller headcount has been reduced by 15 per cent. One in three of OCBC’s bank tellers are fresh polytechnic graduates while the rest are experienced tellers or staff hired from other banks and industries.

As part of the pilot, 15 "digital ambassadors" have already been working at the branches where the new machines and digital service kiosks have been launched to help guide elderly customers in using the new machines. The role of "digital ambassadors" has also been beefed up to include certain functions previously performed by bank tellers. For transactions that require additional authentication, such as cash withdrawals above daily limits, a notification is sent to the mobile tablets that the digital ambassadors carry. The "digital ambassadors" approach the customer at the ATM, verify his or her identity, and then approve the transaction using the tablet.

Since December 2017, OCBC’s "digital ambassadors" have converted 30 per cent of seniors at the Holland Village branch to adopt digital banking such as by using the OCBC Pay Anyone e-payments app or mobile and Internet banking.

Dennis Tan, OCBC's head of consumer financial services in Singapore, said: “With the advent of technology, we have retrained staff for higher-value job functions that will transform our business and allow a more efficient workforce to deliver optimum results. Customers must know that our staff can competently help them with digital age processes and tools.”

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