The Joys of Cash in Singapore!

Posted on: 04/06/2016

I was speaking earlier this week at the Wincor Nixdorf International Management Seminar in Madrid. My topic was “Cash: A Better Future”. I hope I convinced my audience that there could be one!

 Whilst at the Seminar, I was delighted to see an excellent presentation by Mike Power of DBS Bank from Singapore.

DBS probably have the busiest ATMs in the world. Just over 1000 machines perform 27 Million transactions per month. This is perhaps not surprising, with cash being used for 80% plus of retail purchases in Singapore and 90% of the population of 5 Million banking with DBS.

What was surprising – and very heartening – was that DBS has accepted the preferences of their customers. Rather than treating cash as an enemy, DBS has sought to make their ATMs more reliable and efficient. They have succeeded in doing so in spectacular fashion, with both downtime and cash-outs reduced to minimal levels. They have made using their ATMs a joyous experience and are rightly proud of that fact.

I wholeheartedly applaud DBS. They set an example that many banks and other participants in financial services would be wise to follow.

In my presentation at the same seminar, I spoke of the need for there to be an acceptance in the financial services industry that payment choice is a good thing. We all need more choices, not less. Adding one should not mean having to remove another.

I also spoke at length about the need for renewing communities and the part that ATMs and cash could play in that process. I emphasised that every community needed a Financial Services Hub, consisting of sophisticated ATMs, handling multiple transactions. Those transactions would include the deposit and withdrawal of both notes and coins, with full recycling of the deposited cash. Such Hubs do not need to be in bank branches. Indeed, I questioned the viability of such branches. Instead, the Hubs could be situated in retail premises, petrol stations, licensed premises, leisure centres or even libraries. In fact, anywhere with space that could be made acceptably secure.

The Hubs would be more than just cash recycling centres. They would allow users to pay their bills, and taxes, settle parking violations, buy shares, take out a mortgage or loan and so on. There might be 50 or more transactions on offer, judging by ATM transaction sets we already see in countries like Italy, Portugal and Spain. Video links via the ATM screens could be used to allow customers to get specialist advice. In short, the Hubs would allow customers to carry out 99% + of those transactions they carry out at bank branches.

The technology already exists to construct Community Financial Services Hubs. With bank branches closing everywhere, they need to rolled-out very soon in a number of markets where access to cash deposit and withdrawal facilities are plainly increasingly inadequate.

I also stressed that the public would be willing to pay for the services offered at a Hub. Banks and other operators need not be reticent about charging. Customers are used to paying for good service in every business sector. Any pretense of offering free banking needs to be eliminated. Better to charge than withdraw a service without asking for payment. If offered the choice –that word again – many customers will opt to pay for a service they feel they need. Transparent pricing is infinitely preferable to reduced service levels.

Back to DBS. I make many presentations at conferences – and I will be mentioning the great work by the Singapore bank in all of them.

I love brilliant customer service. I have always tried to deliver it myself. To receive it is wonderful, with those who receive it usually showing their appreciation by becoming loyal, long term customers. Which probably means that the 90% share of the Singapore banking market DBS enjoy is safe – and deserves to be!

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