As a country that prides itself with having one of the highest rates of smartphone penetration in the world, it’s a little perplexing how mobile payments are not taking off on our little red dot. The finger could hardly be pointed to the lack of options: think Apple Pay, Android Pay, Dash, EZi Wallet, Liquid Pay, Samsung Pay, DBS PayLah, OCBC Pay Anyone… For a country smaller than the size of New York City, Singapore is practically inundated with the number of e-payment options.
Why so slow then? Why do Singaporeans appear to be particularly tardy in adapting to cashless payments?
In an opinion piece by Rachel Boon for The Straits Times on March 15, one reason given was how cash and cheques are too easily available — case in point: 90 per cent of HDB households are situated within 500m of a local bank ATM. According to Mr Chia Tek Yew, head of financial services advisory at KPMG Singapore, we are much more reliant on cash and cheques as compared to other developed economies in Asia like Japan, South Korea, and Hong Kong.
With such convenience in place, it’s hard to fault Singaporeans who find no incentive to disrupt the status quo.
Another obvious reasons for the slow take-up would be the costs merchants have to bear in utilising e-payments. To initiate the e-payment processes, a sum of money needed to be forked out to set up the systems — terminals, processing fees… all these incur costs to the businesses.
EXCITING TIMES AHEAD
If you’re receptive to technology, a report last year which laid out a road map to e-payments would be music to your ears. In view of several upcoming initiatives to simplify payments, expect streamlined regulations, inclusive governance, interoperable infrastructure and pervasive digitisation.
The Government is also exploring a one-stop platform for government payments through mobile phones, and improving transactions with businesses.
Taking a cue from WeChat’s success in China, Nets chief executive Jeffrey Goh said: “Cashless initiatives are driven primarily from the ground up through social media and e-commerce. With the high usage of smartphones and a good mobile infrastructure, cashless payments have become more pervasive in China.”
We’ll end off with a line from Rachel Boon, one that we couldn’t agree with more.
“Only when e-payments are simple and low-cost will consumers and businesses be weaned off their fondness for cash and cheques and start taking steps towards a cashless future.”