Covid-19 driving investment sales online for Singapore banks

The banks noted that more people are opening accounts that they can use for digital investing. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Bank customers are increasingly going online to invest in the wake of social distancing measures that are keeping them out of branches.

DBS Bank, OCBC Bank and United Overseas Bank (UOB) noted that more people are opening accounts that they can use for digital investing and using robo-advisory services in greater numbers.

The monthly average of DBS Vickers and DBS digiPortfolio accounts opened in the first quarter this year has more than tripled compared with last year, the bank said on Monday (May 18).

Both accounts allow investing to be undertaken online.

More than 75 per cent of accounts that its customers opened in the first three months of this year were multi-currency ones that allow users to undertake foreign exchange trades.

DBS also noted that the number of Central Provident Fund Investment Account openings increased around 700 per cent between January and March compared with the same period last year, while Supplementary Retirement Scheme account openings almost doubled.

OCBC digital and innovation head Pranav Seth noted the increased use of the bank's online channels to make investments.

He said the value of unit trusts bought online between January and March was 2½ times higher compared with the October to December period last year.

"Similarly, investments using our Robo-Invest service grew 60 per cent in the same period," he said. "We are progressively enabling our financial consultants to advise people remotely over phone and over video."

Branch staff are also calling customers to help with transactions and other procedures online, so that customers do not need to visit branches.

UOB noted on Sunday that the strongest demand has been for gold and unit trust products as investors seek defensive and diversified assets.

The number of gold purchase transactions through the bank's digital services was almost 20 times higher in March than in the same month the year before, while digital applications for unit trusts reached a record in the same month.

The bank has noted a 70 per cent increase in portfolio reviews since mid-March compared with those completed from January to that point.

It has increased the investment insight reports it provides to keep customers informed, given volatile market conditions.

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