Banks, finance firms 'need to do more for savvy customers'

Education and knowledge have made clients more demanding, says industry expert

Banks and financial service firms will have to raise their game if they want to continue serving today's increasingly savvy consumers.

The warning came from Mrs Ong-Ang Ai Boon, director of the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) in an interview with The Straits Times yesterday.

"There's the higher education level in Singapore and greater exposure of local consumers to best practices elsewhere. There's also the proliferation of social media. Consumers today know more and expect more," she said.

"So excellent services today are beyond just the usual handshake and smile - these are not enough. Banking professionals need to be more knowledgable on market trends, able to help consumers better, understand their needs and give them trusted financial advice."

She was speaking on the sidelines of the Spring Excellent Service Award ceremony for the banking sector, and just a day after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong urged banks to keep up with rapid industry changes.

Mrs Ong said the challenge entails better services at the front end and more robust digital infrastructure at the back, adding that Singapore's progress has been encouraging.

"The fastest changes are primarily on payment needs, that's why we adopted two years ago the ISO 20022 payment platform. This laid the foundation for Fast (Fast and Secure Transfers)," she noted, referring to an almost-instant electronic fund transfer service rolled out last year.

The awards ceremony yesterday honoured 4,546 finance and banking professionals from 13 organisations for their service quality.

United Overseas Bank was a big winner at the ceremony, with its employees getting 998 awards. So was OCBC Bank with 1,244 awards. 

Ms Janet Yeong, Standard Chartered's technology head for governance and control, was named the ABS Service Excellence Champion, the highest honour handed out.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 14, 2015, with the headline 'Banks, finance firms 'need to do more for savvy customers''. Print Edition | Subscribe