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It comes as no surprise that many of the leading companies of our generation are, largely, tech companies. For example, with a market capitalisation of more than US$1 trillion each, Alphabet, Amazon and Apple are among the biggest and most valuable companies in the world.
While most of us instantly recognise Alphabet, Amazon and Apple as technology conglomerates that provide essential solutions to our daily lives, a less obvious observation that we may not realise is that Alphabet, Amazon and Apple are also part of our financial ecosystem.
Alphabet offers its Google Pay service that is available on both iOS and Android that you can use to make payments to merchants or instant fund transfers to your friends. Not to be outdone, Apple also offers its hugely popular Apple Pay payment service that allows you to make payments using your iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad and even Macbook. Amazon, too, has its own online payment service – Amazon Pay.
Among leading technology companies that have Singaporean heritage, many have also ventured into finance. These include the Sea (Sea Money), Grab (Grab Finance) and Razer (Razer Pay). In fact, both Sea and Grab have also received their license to operate a digital bank in Singapore.
Do All Roads Eventually Lead To Finance?
As someone who has been writing with one of Singapore’s biggest financial media sites, I have been in a fortunate position to have a front-row seat to witness Singapore’s rapid fintech advancement over the past few years.
One of the questions I always find myself asking, mostly to other financial writers, start-up entrepreneurs or industry insiders, is whether all roads eventually lead to finance? Judging by what some of the most prominent technology companies are currently doing, it certainly feels like it.
Whether we care to admit it or not, finance infiltrates nearly every aspect of our lives. Whether it’s deciding what to eat for our next meal, which schools to send our kids to, where we want to live, the career path that we wish to pursue, and the list just goes on actually, our finances are always part of our considerations when making decisions in our lives.
Hence, it comes as no surprise that the biggest technology companies in the world, which are already influencing and engaging with us daily, also want to be part of our financial decision-making.
Regardless of how the technology revolution pans out, finance is going to remain essential in our world. However, what is less clear is whether banks themselves – long seen as the incumbent in the financial world – will be disrupted by this trend of technology companies going into finance or will lead the disruption of their own business models.
To do the latter and remain relevant in a digital world, banks have to do what technology companies have proven themselves to be good at – harnessing the use of technology to provide services and tools that consumers actually want to use and to solve pain points in the current financial ecosystem.
Many banks in Singapore are already leveraging on technology to provide valuable products and solutions. This goes just beyond providing internet banking services or performing online banking transactions using our phones – which is really something all customers already expect a seamless solution for.
How Are Banks Embracing The Use Of Technology To Go Digital?
For example, through the Standard Chartered Mobile App that we can download on the App Store or Google Play, we can access the Standard Chartered Money Manager tool that gives us analytics into our expenditure habits and income each month. With it, we can gain insights into the product category that we tend to spend in and also set a budget for each category to keep ourselves accountable to the budget that we have set.
By giving back to the customers the data they have in an easy-to-understand way, banks like Standard Chartered help empower their customers to make better financial decisions. They also make older digital solutions that require us to manually track our expenses obsolete.
By using technology, Standard Chartered Singapore also expedites the application of financial products that previously may have required a lengthier and more complicated process. For example, suppose we see a promotional dining deal that requires us to pay with a Standard Chartered Credit card to enjoy a discount, we can sign up for a digital card instantly, perhaps while even sitting in the restaurant after ordering our meal. There’s really no good reason we have to wait 5-7 days for a physical card to arrive before being able to use it.
We can spend an entire week without even using any cash these days. But even on the occasions that we do need some cash, we shouldn’t need to always find an ATM. Through the Standard Chartered Mobile App, we can make cash withdrawals by locating participating merchants with SoCash and withdrawing money directly from our Standard Chartered account through these merchants – this way, earn participating outlet which already carries sufficient cash becomes an ATM.
Beyond just providing us with added convenience in our financial lives, the Standard Chartered Mobile App also enables us to easily access various offers on The Good Life®. This is a programme specially created by Standard Chartered Singapore to provide exclusive deals and privileges for their cardholders. So, in some ways, similar to how people love to hunt for good deals on Shopee, Fave, Lazada and Shopback, banks themselves are also positioning themselves to provide great deals. And why not? Banks already have an existing relationship with many businesses, and just need to expand their playbook to include these services rather than create a whole new business and reach out to businesses from scratch.
Similar to how many successful technology companies today are embracing finance as they know this is going to be an important avenue of growth for their business, banks also have to likewise leverage the use of technology to design better products, services and solutions for their customers if they wish to thrive in the digital economy.