Singapore smartens up

PM outlines ‘smart nation’ initiative

Robin Chin, HLB Singapore

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In his National Day Rally, Singapore’s Prime Minister, Mr. Lee Hsien Loong, underscored his vision of Singapore becoming a ‘Smart Nation’. In this article, we focus on initiatives by the government and financial institutions to make cashless payments more pervasive.

PayNow, a fund transfer system launched in July, is a collaborative effort by financial institutions to simplify the way funds are transferred. Before this initiative, fund transfers required users to enter the receiver’s bank account number. This slowed down e-payments, requiring additional steps such as setting a passcode for the receiver to key in before ‘collecting’ their money. With PayNow, users can transfer funds simply by entering the receiver’s mobile or NRIC number regardless of the bank they use.

E-payment is not a new concept in Singapore. QR Codes, touted as a practical and convenient means of e-payment, are gradually gaining traction, especially among small retailers without robust payment infrastructure in place. However, the array of options with differing standards and inability to interoperate often lead to confusion among payers and retailers, and this has resulted in inefficiencies.

To resolve this, the government has established an industry taskforce to rollout a universal QR code, known as the ‘SGQR’ slated for launch by end 2017. This taskforce, comprising of banks, QR payment service providers and various government entities aims to standardise specifications to accept both domestic and international payment schemes. With this new scheme, retailers will now need to display only one QR code at their shopfront for scanning regardless of the payment app that the payer is using.

Through the combined efforts of the government and industry players, Singapore will in time catch up on the race against its peers to go cashless. Therefore, it is imperative that companies begin to embrace technology or risk irrelevance in this increasingly digitised world.

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