Cash won't go extinct amid digitalisation: E-payment veteran

ST tech editor Irene Tham (left) and Mr Jeffrey Goh, head of Grablink, a regional payment company of Grab Financial Group. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - With increased digitalisation spurred by the Covid-19 pandemic, will cash go the way of the dodo in Singapore?

E-payment veteran Jeffrey Goh replied with a resounding "no".

Mr Goh, head of Grablink, a unit of South-east Asia's ride-hailing giant Grab, said physical cash still remains very relevant as a payment option in the event of a network breakdown.

"We need to think about it from a business continuity (perspective). What if the network is down?" he said, speaking at an askST @ NLB session on Friday (April 30).

E-payment networks can break down for various reasons, including cyber-security attacks or lack of capacity planning, said Mr Goh.

He was speaking on the topic "Will cash go the way of the dodo in Singapore?" in the latest edition of the askST @ NLB talks.

Hosted by Straits Times tech editor Irene Tham, it was live-streamed on Friday on ST's Facebook page.

AskST @ NLB is a collaboration between The Straits Times and the National Library Board.

Singapore's aim is to go less on cash and not completely cashless, said Mr Goh, who was previously chief executive of Singapore e-payment giant Network for Electronic Transfers (Nets).

Cash also has a role in education, said Ms Tham.

"Physical cash is important especially when children are learning how to count," she said, adding that tapping a phone on an e-payment terminal will not teach children financial literacy.

Use of e-payment soared after the circuit breaker to stem the spread of Covid-19 kicked in last year. Work and study from home became the norm during the period, which lasted from April 7 to June 1.

Many transactions were made using instant fund transfer service PayNow, which maps mobile phone or NRIC numbers to bank account numbers for funds to be credited.

Launched in 2017, PayNow has also provided a platform for hawker payments to go cashless via the Singapore Quick Response Code (SGQR).

As at February this year, more than half of all 18,000 hawker stalls in Singapore allow customers to pay via major banking apps and e-wallets by scanning the SGQR.

The opening up of PayNow to non-financial institutions allows users to freely transfer credits from e-wallets like GrabPay and Singtel Dash to their bank accounts, said Mr Goh.

"This creates a lot of convenience and drives the cost of transaction lower than that incurred from using a credit card," he said.

Both speakers addressed questions from readers on how seniors can be included in a society that is going less on cash.

Mr Goh urged Singaporeans to give their elderly parents a new phone rather than a hand-me-down phone, as most of the latest apps or QR code scanning barely work on old phones.

Plus, a new Android phone does not cost more than $200.

"But the most important thing is that the elderly themselves become 'evangelists' for cashless payments," he said.

Readers who missed the stream of the event can find the story and video at this website.

Past askST @ NLB sessions can also be found there as well.

The talk was part of the askST @ NLB series, a collaboration between ST and the National Library Board (NLB).

Those who wish to know more about digital banking and finance, can search NLB's catalogue for related books using the keywords: "Banks and banking - Technological innovations" and "Financial services industry - Technological innovations".

If you do not have a myLibraryID, you can go to this link and sign up for one using your SingPass or NRIC/FIN.

Suggested titles for reading:

• The digital banking revolution: How fintech companies are transforming the retail banking industry through disruptive financial innovation (2019)

• Bank 4.0: Banking everywhere, never at a bank (2019)

• Doing digital: Lessons from leaders (2020)

The next askST @ NLB session will be held on May 28 at 7pm and details will be released soon.

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