Digital bank account opening trial: What does this mean for Singapore?
The future of banking in Singapore is upon us – and it’s concise, hassle-free, and greener. Earlier in May, four banks began a pilot scheme that would see the opening of bank accounts completely digitalised, using existing citizens’ e-service MyInfo. The government-backed personal data platform has been operative since 2016, but its use in personal banking is the first of its kind as the appraised service broadens.
MyInfo aims to streamline the process of personal verification, with users only needing to perform one initial registration with the service to then be automatically authenticated when using government services, filling in forms, and now opening bank accounts.
Banking goes green
The four banks which have adopted the service as part of their basic registration process are OCBC, UOB, DBS and Standard Chartered. This quartet are the first non-government service to do so, and thereby have decided to eliminate for their customers the manual inputting of details, which is open to mistakes and memory lapses, and the sending of documents for personal verification, which is time-consuming and open to the risk of loss.
Initial registration for the service is done on the MyInfo website using a SingPass account. Once registered, government-verified data fields include NRIC number, name, address, date of birth and 15 other fields which users need never input again. Furthermore, users can individually add data fields relating to employment, education, vehicle ownership, martial status and several others. It’s particularly useful for those who tire of repetition, those who are liable to forget dates and numbers, and for data which is perhaps not accessible while on the move.
In addition to reducing stress levels and giving the brain a break, digital bank account opening is also greener. Gone are photocopies and print outs, as well as envelopes and covering letters. Another benefit to the service is that it is instant – there’s no more waiting for documents to be sent, received and returned. Finally, geography and location need never be an issue again as the service can be actioned at any time, anywhere. However, for those not yet convinced about digital bank account opening, bank accounts can still open in person, where personal verification is also instant, providing you have come prepared.
What are the downsides?
The undoing of digitalisation of course comes in the form of security, privacy and data usage. MyInfo promises that data will only be used and managed by the individual user. Meanwhile, on the evolving digital landscape of private banking, Jacqueline Poh, the chief executive of Govtech, the Government Technology Agency of Singapore, stressed that e-services like MyInfo in place of traditional banking methods were intended to better help the industry and transform services for citizens. She said, “We have seen good take-up of MyInfo and hope that this public-private collaboration will provide citizens with even more benefits.”
However, the success of the pilot will also depend heavily on strong private sector collaboration, including banks, authorities and telecoms operators, as well as robust public support and engagement. Doubters point to 2015, when registering for extra SingPass security was something of an impeded debacle, with users being dragged through countless enrolment steps which involved both online and offline actions. Simple, streamlined registration processes would benefit Singapore’s older population, and incentivising or subsidising subscriptions to the service would accelerate idle take up.
One country Singapore could look to for digital services inspiration is the northern European state of Estonia. The nation of 1.3 million has successfully introduced electronic ID cards, which allow citizens to vote in elections, complete taxes, digitally sign documents and even check medical records. What’s more, the service has been extended to foreigners who may want to apply for e-residency or even set up a business in Estonia – which is a gateway to the wider European market.
Of course, a completely digital ID system is a long way off for Singapore, who would need to address several legislations before competing on scale with a country like Estonia. So let’s go back to the here and now, and take a look at what is next for consumers in the foreseeable future of digital ID and banking.
While only four banks are currently involved in the MyInfo pilot, a similar program set to come into force in June 2017 will benefit customers of HSBC, Citibank and Maybank, as well as the aforementioned quartet participating in the pilot. The Central Addressing Scheme, backed by the Association of Banks in Singapore, is more product focused, and is intended to benefit individuals when carrying out peer-to-peer transactions. It links users’ NRIC number, bank account number and mobile phone number to provide verification and ease of use when carrying out necessities like e-payments and inter-bank transfers.
Currently the MyInfo pilot is only for regular deposit accounts, but once the success of the trial has been measured, the proposal is to roll it out next year to other more complex financial products, such as credit card applications and mortgages. Standard Chartered CIO Michael Gorriz described central databases and data storage as “the way forward”, expressing his belief that, “Consumers will benefit from only having to provide their data once and have control over access to their personal information.” In addition to further advancement in banking, it’s also hoped the MyInfo data vault will be extended to all government services too, to complement the 19 already benefiting. Watch this space as the future of banking and digital ID in Singapore is reformed.