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FINANCIAL SERVICES | Staff Reporter, Singapore
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Singapore’s 20 largest commercial banks 2013

Products range from virtual credit cards to security token to enhance ebanking experience.

Citibank Singapore has topped Singapore Business Review’s inaugural top 20 banks for 2013 based on the number of employees. Citibank led the pack with a 10,000-strong workforce. It was followed by two local banks United Overseas Bank (UOB) and DBS. OCBC has declined to give its numbers but banking experts estimated it to be around 7,000 staff. It shares with Standard Chartered Bank (STAN SG) at 4th place.

Chart-topper Citi

Citibank, an American bank, bills itself as the first bank in Singapore and in Asia to offer credit card that incorporates social networking as part of its core card features – the Citibank Clear Platinum Card which targets segment of 21 to 35 year olds.

Citing Visa’s Strategic Market Analysis Report for Singapore, Jacquelyn Tan, head of credit payment products at Citibank boasts that the proportion of total card spend attributed to ecommerce grew 28% YoY in 2011, with the figure for Citibank Singapore growing faster than the market at 36%.

Citibank added 270 staff in the last quarter of 2011 but also among foreign banks in Singapore which cut headcount last year. It laid off over 10 employees mostly from the commercial banking division.

UOB took the second spot with 7,850 staff. UOB has just launched in March this year the UOB American Express Virtual Pay which it said is the first service in Singapore that allows customers to buy online directly from overseas online retailers that do not accept credit cards that have been issued in Singapore. Customers are given a special 15-digit credit card number which can be used to make direct online purchases from US and other overseas sites that accept American Express.

Gan Ai Im, managing director of cards and payments at UOB said that a third of all online spending on UOB Cards was with online retailers outside of Singapore. UOB, Southeast Asia’s third largest lender by assets, also aims to double the bank’s lending to small businesses across Southeast Asia over three years to 2015. To deliver this growth in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand, UOB plans to hire more than 100 relationship managers across the region to serve small businesses specifically. It also endeavors to streamline processes and shorten the loan application and approval time for small business customers. Victor Lee, UOB Group head of business banking said that UOB in 2011 halved its loan processing time for customers across the region with the development of a new S$15 million credit application tool.

Singapore banks step up

UOB is also expanding its commercial banking operations in Asia as it plans to set up five more foreign direct investment advisory units next year in China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

DBS, now the anchor tenant of Marina Bay Financial Centre Tower 3 billed as the largest corporate fitout in Singapore, came in third with 7,800 group strength.

According to Sim S Lim, DBS Singapore country manager, in a bid to position itself a leading wealth player in Asia, its customers in mid-2013 will be able to trade shares without the need to maintain separate relationships with their bank and a brokerage firm. This, he said, makes DBS the first Singapore bank to offer banking and brokerage products under one roof.

DBS, which claims to be the market leader in Singapore for mobile banking services with over 450,000 mBanking account holders has also launched last year its application based mBanking electronic securities application (ESA) service, which it touts as the first such service in Singapore. Customers through it will be able to make their IPO application via their smart phones while on the go.

DBS also unveiled last year Singapore’s first two-in-one device that acts as both a credit/debit/ATM card and a personal security token. The security token card has the size of a credit card but is only 0.1cm thick. 

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