TELECOM & INTERNET | Tim Charlton, Singapore
Edward Senju

Digital banking? Virtual meetings? Singapore must embrace digital business cards in 2021, too


Digital banking has been an innovation darling of 2020 as payments increasingly moved to digital channels and economies went cashless during COVID-related lockdowns.

Just in December, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) awarded four digital bank licenses: two digital full bank licences and two digital wholesale bank licenses.

The digital infrastructure of payments is now firmly established, penetrating deeper into not just developed but also emerging markets in Asia.

But there remains a broader need for basic digital infrastructure to be put in place across every business function, not just in banking or collaboration tools, as sectors and economies attempt to ‘build back better’ from the pandemic in 2021.

This represents a continuation of the global digital transformation (DX) push that is slowly but surely yielding an increased return on investment (ROI) in technology spending.

Paper business cards, a long-time staple of the boardroom and business meetings in Singapore and the rest of Asia, have faced an existential threat in a year that has moved so much business activity to digital channels.

Now it’s a Zoom call instead of a working lunch at that sushi bar downtown, a virtual fintech conference instead of tens of thousands flocking to expo halls.

Whilst businesses have moved payments and meetings online, have they been as seamless or successful at moving the old-fashioned paper business card to new digital environments?

This will be a challenge for the year ahead, but one that I am confident Singapore’s business community will embrace.

There will be productivity benefits if business cards can be transitioned to the cloud in the same way that customer relationship management (CRM) tools have been.

QR codes key to virtual cards

We have all become accustomed to scanning QR codes for safe check-in to locations during COVID. Similarly, the e-commerce boom has made QR codes ubiquitous for many payment options.

Now, too, the future of digital business cards is relying on this tried-and-tested technology, familiar already to millions of Singaporeans as a mainstay of their smartphone camera.

Virtual card technology is also being rapidly integrated into popular collaboration and ‘work from home’ (WFH) platforms.

This includes the likes of Microsoft Teams as well as custom backgrounds with QR codes embedded into them on Zoom, allowing easy scanning of digital contact details - and ultimately the downloading of virtual cards.

In 2021, we can expect to see deeper digital business card integration into platforms such as Gmail, Outlook, Salesforce, Google Calendar, and more.

Thousands of enterprises across Asia are already embracing the need for a digital alternative to the traditional paper version as part of their digital readiness and business continuity planning for the post-COVID ‘new normal’.

Basic digital infrastructure requirement

As we have discussed, a broader push is required beyond banking and remote meetings in terms of the digital infrastructure that every business puts in place going forward to guarantee resilience.

Ensuring digital connections are made and stored, rather than lost in the virtual ether, will be important as part of an intelligent and thoughtful data strategy, with implications for more general digital transformations.

Data is the new oil? That’s still true. The connections we make in this new digital world are valuable and we must think deeply about how we exchange and store that data.

Once we would have dozens if not hundreds of paper business cards lying around our home and office - in 2021, those will increasingly be virtual like our banking and collaboration tools.

Vertex, Supersteam, and CEO Asia are good examples of Singapore companies already embracing the future of virtual cards.

It’s time for the broader business community to start doing so, too, in the pursuit and name of innovation, productivity, cloud integration, and digital transformation.

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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Edward Senju

Edward Senju

Edward Senju is the Regional Chief Executive Officer at Sansan Inc., a Japanese provider of cloud-based contact management solutions for corporations. Using Singapore as a springboard, he is responsible for driving Sansan’s growth in the region, including Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam. Since joining Sansan in 2009, Senju has been a key contributor in the company’s growth and expansion from Japan to other parts of Asia.

In 2011, he was tasked with helping launch and develop Sansan’s consumer-oriented contact management app, Eight. He subsequently helped build it into Japan’s largest business social network. With extensive time living in the United States and Mexico, Senju graduated from Chuo University (Tokyo) in 2003 and worked with global tech giant Oracle as an Account Manager, in charge of enterprise sales, before joining Sansan.

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