How can Financial Technology help Singaporeans achieve First World Smart Nation status?
At the recent National Day Rally, PM Lee challenged Singaporeans to go cashless, believing it to be a key pillar in Singapore becoming a truly smart nation.
We think PM Lee isn’t far off the mark. As Singaporeans get used to digital platforms in everyday activities, we’ll become more eager to integrate technology into other areas as well.
Take online shopping for example. Even though we live in one of the most urbanised cities in the world, with shops everywhere we turn, Singaporeans are among the most active online shoppers globally.
You might say it’s a matter of lower prices, that online shops can survive on a slimmer margin, and hence consumers benefit by saving money. However, sales primarily benefit sellers, not shoppers.
Today, Financial Technology (FinTech) has a multiplying effect on consumer spending habits and behaviour because it adds speed and convenience.
Here’s our look at 3 ways how FinTech is changing money for Singaporeans.
Money is More Accessible and Convenient
As with other areas of life, adding technology to money has the net effect of improving speed, accessibility and convenience. (Although, some would argue that many of the developments in FinTech arose due to consumer demand for these very same things.)
Whichever the case, the integration of FinTech into our fiscal lives (heralded by the introduction of the first ATM in 1979, and every major iteration thereafter) has a common and predictable effect: Money becomes easier to access, and more convenient (and therefore, faster) to spend.
Credit cards are a familiar example. Hands up those of us who have ever booked plane tickets on our credit cards, holding the balance until we get our bonus to pay them off 4 months later.
Here, the use of credit cards not only allows us to access money we technically do not have, it also makes it possible to spend said money with nary a blink.
At a national penetration rate of 38%, there is no doubt that credit cards have become an integral part of our lives. With the renewed push to go completely cashless, how will Singaporeans’ relationship with plastic evolve?
Positively, we think; Singaporeans are smart after all. Judging by visitorship numbers and commonly asked questions, more than convenience and speed, Singaporeans value certainty.
We’ve recently introduced the ability to get an instant decision when you sign up for Citibank credit cards through our site. This means that you no longer have to wait to see if you will be approved for the credit card you want to get. Instead, you’ll get a confirmed answer - directly from Citibank - when you submit your application on SingSaver.com.sg.
Numbers over the Hari Raya long weekend are highly encouraging, and we expect this trend to continue.
Money Goes Further and Does More
The freedom and convenience posed by FinTech has empowered everyday Singaporeans to carry out sophisticated money maneuvers all on their own.
Consider the following:
- Travel credit cards let you accumulate air miles on every dollar you spend. You can then choose how to spend those miles - whether for flights, hotels or experiences/events. Without an air mile credit card, you’d only earn miles when you spend money on a particular airline, and then, you can only use your miles for their products and services. If you don’t like the provider and wanted to make a change, you’d likely be penalised (through forfeiture of leftover miles.)
- In the past, if you wanted eggs, you’d have to go buy it from the market. No amount of money was going to convince the farmer to deliver a fresh dozen to your home. Today, not only will Redmart and Amazon Prime deliver eggs to you, they will even supply flour, sugar, sprinkles and everything you need to bake a cake for your baby’s first birthday. Actually, go ahead and order an entire party; all the stuff you need will be delivered, and you can pay for everything without taking a single note out of your wallet.
- You can organise your retirement savings and investments using your tablet, while lying in bed on a rainy Sunday morning.
- There are apps that automatically invests your loose change for you (unfortunately, they’re not yet available in Singapore).
The visible result that FinTech brings is an increase in the versatility of money. We can use our money to go further and achieve more than ever before.
And with the rise of cryptocurrencies, digital wallets and cashless payments, the extent of what consumers can do will only increase.
Money Becomes Even More Democratic
Imagine this: You’re waiting in line at your favourite hawker stall, when you spot a frail, bent-over old granny hovering nearby. Every so often, she’d cast a longing glance at the bowls of steaming hot food being happily picked up by patron after patron.
Less frequently, she’d look out at the queue, a pointed look haunting her worn features.
Realising what’s happening, you briefly lock eyes with her, only for both to look away hastily - she in shame, and you in embarrassment for her. There’s no easy way for either party to voice or grant the request so poignantly hanging in the air.
Now, imagine if this particular hawker accepts cashless payments. To pay for food, all you have to do is to tap a card, or key a mobile number into your phone.
How much easier would it be to do the simple kindness of paying for that granny’s meal?
There would be none of the stigma associated with begging - no cash needs to exchange hands. Onlookers need never know what took place, so no one will suffer red cheeks.
You have the entirety of your bank account at your fingertips, so no worries about not having enough money to pay for the extra portion.
And perhaps best of all, you can be doubly sure you aren’t being suckered, for the money goes directly to the hawker!
What could have been a fraught act of charity, turns into an experience of two sharing a hot meal on the generosity of one.
And that’s how FinTech can further democratise money for Singaporeans.
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By Alevin Chan
A Certified Financial Planner with a curiosity about what makes people tick, Alevin's mission is to help readers understand the psychology of money. He's also on an ongoing quest to optimize happiness and enjoyment in his life.
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