Pandemic drives Singapore banks to accelerate digital offerings

  • Ace Global
  • December 29, 2021

Despite Singapore’s relatively stable economic and political environment, Singapore banks still have to navigate their operation through economic disruptions and changing demands in the COVID-19 pandemic. Banks are not only implementing new work arrangements but also have to deal with their vulnerability to certain areas which have been critically undermined by the crisis.

According to the Singapore Business Review’s annual bank rankings for 2020, it reports some outstanding changes amongst the top banks in terms of employee numbers. In particular, DBS is ranked in the top list when it retained over 12,000 employees in April this year. OCBC is the second place with 10,032 employees. Although UOB fell one spot to third place, it still maintained more than 9,000 employees.

Although banks benefit from a stable economic and political environment, they still have to navigate a rough operating environment brought about by the pandemic. In particular, DBS, UOB, and OCBC are three major banks in Singapore are in danger of asset quality and profitability losses due to their display to a declining playing field, according to a Fitch Ratings commentary. While the cracks may start to show in 2021, the forecasted impaired-loan proportion is around 2.5%, higher than the current 1.5%.


The crisis has instilled an urgent need for banks to be proactive and agile in times of unforeseen circumstances through Digitization as follows:

  1. In order to fulfill their customers’ need for digital services, CIMB has partnered with local chatbot provider Pand.AI to develop its own chatbot named Eva to assist business owners on inquiries regarding financial schemes that will help them through the crisis. As most of their banking products and services can be accessed online, the bank has hired a team that will look into any gaps in their digital services that need to be improved.
  2. Maybank Singapore has also been taking advantage of the digital advent, in line with the Smart Nation initiative. The bank has granted initiatives to promote online services, such as cash rewards as well as waiving fees for outgoing FAST and PayNow transfers. To help businesses accept PayNow payments, the bank has collaborated with Liquid Group for an all-in-one QR payment terminal for merchants to generate a dynamic QR code for each customer to scan and pay using PayNow.

Road to recovery

In the future, CIMB will take on a “customer-obsessed, high-performing, have integrity” attitude. Moreover, the bank will follow customer needs and will hasten the development of their digital initiatives on top of upskilling their employees and being an authoritative voice in the sector.

Besides, Maybank will gradually scale up operations in addition to reopening some branches and the resumption of select wealth and investment services as well as backend support. Furthermore, the bank is also willing to decentralize ít operations through redesigning offices and allowing more staff to work outside.

In summary, the promotion of cashless payment methods by Singapore banks helps the banks meet the needs of an increasingly diverse customer including residents as well as Singapore business registration. On that basis, it helps the banks increase revenue, enhances reputation, and builds trust with customers.

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