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UOB becomes first bank in Singapore to pilot digital signature authorisation

Felicia Tan
Felicia Tan6/10/2021 03:33 PM GMT+08  • 5 min read
UOB becomes first bank in Singapore to pilot digital signature authorisation
The move will cut down paper usage by two million forms -- or 700 trees -- a year.
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United Overseas Bank Limited (UOB) has announced, on June 10, that it will pilot the use of GovTech’s Sign with Singpass to confirm transactions or product applications using its customers’ digital signatures.

The move makes UOB the first bank in Singapore to do so. According to UOB, the shift will reduce paper usage by two million forms, and some 700 trees a year.

The bank will test its digital initiative through an initial 12-month pilot with some of its retail and corporate customers.

The pilot will cover forms for individual wealth planning services and the PayNow Corporate application.

Following the 12-month pilot period, UOB says it aims to expand the use of Sign with Singpass to more products and services for both the retail and wholesale segments in Singapore.

See also: 'Buy' UOB as green financing opportunities could support medium term growth: Maybank Kim Eng

“At UOB, we have been using technology to help build the progressive solutions that our retail and corporate customers can use to manage their banking needs. The change in customer expectations and experience during Covid-19 has made it an imperative that we explore and extend our digital capabilities across more of our financial services and products,” says Susan Hwee, UOB’s head of group technology and operations.

According to the UOB Asean Consumer Sentiment study in August 2020, some 65% of the 1,030 participants polled expect banking services to be digital by default.

“As more customers take to the convenience of managing their banking needs online, we must ensure that we offer them a seamless and safe digital experience… The initiative will not only increase the convenience for our customers but also remove one of the roadblocks – the need for physical signatures – in fully digitalising the documentation process,” Hwee adds.

The Sign with Singpass feature will enable Singpass users to sign an e-document via the Singpass app. The digital signature is identifiable and uniquely linked to the signer.

During the digital signing process, a cryptographically random and indecipherable code will be shared with the bank’s document management platform to confirm that the customer has signed the document.

In a press statement later on June 10, DBS Bank noted using digital signatures are not new to the bank, both on the retail and institutional front.

The bank added that it was the first Singapore bank to partner GovTech to leverage on SingPass’ capabilities to benefit its customers.

“DBS has been leveraging its deep digital capabilities and networks to avail solutions that are intelligent, intuitive and invisible for our customers. On the retail front, almost all of our products and services already use digibank & SingPass for authentication and validation. We have also deployed secured electronic signatures through DBS DigiSign for our institutional customers since August last year,” says Jimmy Ng, group chief information officer and head of group technology and operations.

“In 2020, DBS was the first bank to partner with GovTech to deploy SingPass Face Verification in a number of banking applications, speeding up information authentication and verification for retail and SME customers alike,” he adds.

“In lieu of the traditional card and PIN method, existing retail customers who wish to sign up for DBS digibank access, retrieve or change their account usernames, can now do so via SingPass facial verification, in a process akin to taking a selfie. Similarly, SME owners need only smile for the camera to authenticate their account opening applications. The retail and SME initiatives were piloted in July and November 2020 respectively, and more than 30,000 customers have since used the feature.”

“We will continue to work closely with our technology ecosystem partners, including GovTech, to deliver joyful banking experiences to our customers while empowering us to tap into new business opportunities as we learn to live with Covid-19 in the new normal,” says Ng.

In March, OCBC Bank became the first institution in Southeast Asia to enable face verification usingSingPass Face Verification for its ATM banking transactions, eliminating the need for ATM cards.

The first transaction that can be performed using face verification on OCBC Bank ATMs is account balance enquiries. This was first rolled out on eight ATMs around Singapore. Face verification will be extended to cash withdrawals to all OCBC Bank ATMs around the island progressively.

“Singapore consumers are keen digital adopters – even the elderly. While cash is still a key mode of payment in Singapore, the digital overlay to get cash is very welcomed by consumers. Overall, digital adoption within OCBC has grown year-on-year in 2020 with more than 40% more customers signed up on PayNow, and PayNow transactions doubling, compared to 2019. QR code cash withdrawals at ATMs grew 88% year-on-year in 2020," said Sunny Quek, OCBC Bank’s head of consumer financial services in Singapore in March.

"With many customers already embracing QR cash withdrawals without having to use an ATM card, face verification will add a layer of convenience to more customers as they access our banking touchpoints," he added.

Shares in DBS, OCBC and UOB closed $29.89, $12.39 and $26.10 on June 10.

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