Maxi-Cash cranks up digital push

Maxi-Cash CEO Ng Leok Cheng hopes its new online payment and valuation services and its revamped e-store will provide a strong platform for expansion overseas.
Maxi-Cash CEO Ng Leok Cheng hopes its new online payment and valuation services and its revamped e-store will provide a strong platform for expansion overseas.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Move to add new online services aids pawnbroker's plans to go international while offering greater convenience

Pawnbroker Maxi-Cash is one of the latest financial sector firms to offer digital services, and released some new ones recently.

Its iPayment, started last month, lets users go online to pay interest on loans. An online valuation service and a revamp of eShop were unveiled as well, on Aug 1.

Besides providing added convenience, Maxi-Cash said it wants to build a strong foundation as it aims to become a global business.

Chief executive Ng Leok Cheng told The Straits Times this week that it has introduced several modes of payment and delivery as it is "currently actively looking to go into the region".

"It's about using digital means to link up all the services and stores so that, apart from providing convenience in Singapore, we could be transacting with you in the region, and you'd still feel like you were dealing with us right here. It wouldn't matter where you were," he said.

Maxi-Cash worked on iPayment for two years, he said. There were plans to release it earlier, but new requirements under pawnbroking laws in 2015 meant that the firm had to tweak the product.

Customers who have pawned items must register with Maxi-Cash before they can pay the interest on their loans online using iPayment.

Mr Ng feels the service will appeal to those with larger loans, as they would no longer need to visit the physical stores at crowded times.

"There are concerns, such as making it so convenient for people that they would no longer come as often - regardless of why people walk into the store, there's always an opportunity to sell them something," he noted.

However, he believes that, in the long run, people will see the extra value offered by the firm, and start to associate Maxi-Cash with more than just pawnbroking.

The Catalist-listed chain already sells pre-owned luxury goods and has its own jewellery line, LeGold.

And its new online valuation system could reach potential users who want to pawn their items but are new to the idea, or those who are pawning items that do not have an active secondary market.

"This will provide confidence and transparency," said Mr Ng.

"If people need money, for example, and have never been to a pawnshop, they might have no idea how to monetise their item or how much it's worth. People feel uncomfortable if they go to the shop and find it's not worth anything."

The revamped eShop now allows consumers to buy products online and have them delivered or arrange to pick them up directly at the stores. In the past, the interface was less interactive.

Some goods will be made available only on eShop.

Mr Ivan Ho, the president of the Singapore Pawnbrokers' Association, agrees that the industry has to look to the future with technology and services.

That is why Mr Ho's Heng Seng Pawnshop in Toa Payoh also has an online store.

He says: "Soon, most of the pawnbrokers will head in the same direction (online), and the association does encourage everyone to keep up with the times."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2017, with the headline 'Maxi-Cash cranks up digital push'. Print Edition | Subscribe