Overheard

Four-day bank holiday a rare break

Banking body's 'Jubilee Weekend' request to members is the first such call in a long while

If you were trying to do some banking on Saturday, you would have found the shutters down at the branches of well-known banks.

This is apparently the first time in a long while that banks have closed their branches over a long weekend, dubbed the "Jubilee Weekend" in an industry circular.

The Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) requested that all member banks declare four days of non-bank business days, from last Friday until the end of today.

This means they will not offer branch banking. Of course, online banking services are still available.

ABS told the banks: "This is in line with the President's declaration of Friday as a public holiday to enable all Singaporeans to celebrate Singapore's Golden Jubilee and participate in the extended Jubilee Weekend activities to commemorate this special milestone in our nation's history."

It also said that declaring Aug 7 to 10 as non-bank business days would have minimal effect on customers.

Consumers would have found they can still make payments through Internet banking, and withdraw cash from ATMs. An industry insider said the ATMs were well- stocked for the weekend. "With the industry being on a five-day clearing week, there is no impact on cheque clearing," ABS added.

One customer said: "I keep in mind that it's a long weekend so I made sure that my key transactions were done at the bank before the SG50 weekend. Otherwise I'd turn to i-banking, which is very convenient but sometimes more restricted in what it can do for me."

Guidelines state that all banks must treat Mondays to Fridays as bank business days, except when those days fall on a public holiday or another bank holiday.

Banks may also specify whether Saturdays, Sundays or any public holidays are bank business days.

Consumers have become used to banking on weekends since banks started offering those services almost a decade ago.

In 2006, OCBC Bank launched its Sunday banking branches and Standard Chartered's VivoCity branch was declared open 365 days a year. Those moves were a resounding success.

ABS told The Straits Times: "The major retail banks will be closed, but there may be some banks which will open their branches to serve the specific remittance needs of their customers during the Jubilee Weekend."

The coordinated effort by ABS means hard-working staff in banking got to enjoy the long weekend off, along with the rest of Singapore.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 10, 2015, with the headline 'Four-day bank holiday a rare break'. Print Edition | Subscribe