At this year’s National Day Rally on 20 August, when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke about the most important challenges and opportunities facing Singapore, the Smart Nation initiative was at the top of his agenda. Mr. Lee called on Singaporeans to embrace the unprecedented possibilities that technology has placed at their fingertips; remarking, “[The] Smart Nation is for all of us, young and old…the world is changing. Unless we change with it, we will fall behind.”
Being a Smart Nation means not only adopting complex technology, but also using it to thoughtfully address challenges and uncover bright new opportunities – from healthcare solutions that leverage robotics and automation to supporting Singapore’s growing elderly population, to enhanced public data collection and analytics to optimise transportation when space is limited.
Payments are a key arena through which Singapore’s Smart Nation drive is being realised; and businesses that explore the future of payments today will be best poised to capture new opportunity tomorrow.
The future of payments in Singapore’s Smart Nation will be much easier on the pocketbook; at least in terms of weight. Cashless is king; as e-wallets, contactless cards and mobile payments become more and more popular amongst consumers, and increasingly accepted amongst merchants. And, now that shoppers have experienced the speed and ease of a cashless shopping trip, they are calling on merchants and the industry to develop even more ways to pay without cash.
Singapore, a world leader in technology and innovation, is delighted to answer their call. For example, consumers in Singapore can now perform peer-to-peer direct fund transfers with seven banks using just a mobile phone number1; thanks to the new PayNow service launched this July by the Association of Banks in Singapore. It’s expected that by next year, the service will also enable easier payments between consumers and retailers, as well as government-related transactions.
Of course, there’s one shopping destination where every transaction is cashless – online. The future of payments and retail in Singapore, as it is around the world, will largely be conducted in front of a screen. Singapore’s senior minister of state, the Ministry of Trade and Industry recently said that the nation is aiming to increase ecommerce by 10 percent in less than four years2, and many retailers are already preparing their payment ecosystem for the future of omnichannel and online shopping.
Payments will have an important role to play, as ecommerce cannot succeed without a seamless, secure and simple way to pay. Just as people in Singapore now expect the ability to walk into a shop and make a cashless payment with a wave of their hand, so will they equally expect a quick and easy payment experience when they shop online?
Businesses that equip their online or omnichannel platform with the right payment process can support Singapore’s dual Smart Nation goals of increasing ecommerce and furthering business productivity. The benefits of offering the right online payments process are myriad – from preventing customer drop-out, to increasing ancillary purchases, to enhancing loyalty with the new generation of customers who have soaring demands for a hassle-free experience at every stage of the online shopping journey.
And, because the future of retail knows no borders, Singapore’s online merchants can get a head start on cross-border growth by offering instant currency conversions and a variety of payment methods to capture new customers from across Asia and the globe.
As enterprises in Singapore continue to strive for new growth under the Smart Nation drive, the government will be working in tandem to help them take a leading stance in technology-enabled business and payments. Already, the Singapore government is making exciting investments in FinTech innovation; encouraging financial institutions to experiment with new technologies in a safe environment. With these and other pioneering developments across the Smart Nation initiative, the roadmap to Singapore’s future becomes clearer by the day.
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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Phil is the General Manager, Global Enterprise eCommerce, Asia Pacific at Worldpay. He leads Worldpay’s Global eCom team across Asia Pacific which operates from three offices in Singapore, Japan and China, as General Manager. Phil has over 12 years of experience in financial services in payments, acquiring and credit card issuing with companies including Citi, Diners Club, American Express and Worldpay. He has a degree in Accounting and Law and is currently completing an MBA with Manchester Business School.