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BANKING TECHNOLOGY | Staff Reporter, Singapore
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Check out how banks are pampering SMEs in these precarious times

ASEAN has become a hotbed for SME-focussed banking innovations.

In the world of banking, big is beautiful as far as clients go, with many large corporations and multinational firms receiving the royal treatment. But small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are starting to receive increasingly attentive service, too, as Asia embraces technology and grapples with a tougher operating environment.

“SME banking is an industry in transition. From a market that was once considered challenging and niche to serve, it has now become a strategic target of banks.

This follows on from the 2008 financial crisis where banks shifted their focus away from large corporates, facilitated by the desire to seek high yields given low interest rates,” says Deloitte Consulting in a report.

CIMB recently launched CIMB BusinessGo in Singapore, which provides SMEs with a business current account offering an interest rate of up to 1.88%. It also waives transaction fees on key business transactions like telegraphic transfers and payroll, amongst other features.

“Corporate customers typically enjoy customised solutions and preferential pricing, which may not be available to the smaller SME customers due to their lower transactional volume and account balances. This form of differentiated pricing often places SMEs at a disadvantage,” says Ng Wee Lee, head of commercial banking, CIMB Bank Singapore.

In February, Maybank collaborated with Asian Business Software Solutions (ABSS) to enable Maybank’s SME clients to directly credit salaries to employee bank accounts by using ABSS’ payroll software. Choong Wai Hong, head, community financial services at Maybank Singapore, notes the number of SME customers using the bank’s online payroll services has tripled over the past year.

Meanwhile, UOB recently launched UOB Virtual Payment Solutions which enables businesses to pay their vendors and suppliers through a virtual corporate credit card account even if these parties do not accept card payments. 

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