How banks in Singapore are supporting entrepreneurs and SMEs
By Yon Heong Tung for e27
As a leading financial hub in Asia, it is no surprise that Singapore is experiencing a surge in innovations in the financial sphere. Coupled with several doom and gloom reports about the republic’s sluggish economic growth, the time to invigorate businesses comes at a very critical juncture.
Major corporations and banks have learnt that to ride out this uncertain economic season, they need new blood. They need to provide the resources to help the small players reach new heights and develop new and groundbreaking financial products.
Indeed, active collaboration with SMEs and entrepreneurs will not only accelerate the growth of fresh business opportunities; it will also provide a much-needed jolt to reverse any possible economic stagnation.
In Singapore, banks such as DBS have taken the lead in building a plethora of financial solutions tailored for startups.
DBS BusinessClass – TechMatch programme
These include DBS BusinessClass, which is a mobile app that serves as a community platform that allows startups to connect with over 17,000 entrepreneurs, investors and advisors hailing from different industries across Asia. Through the app, startups can use an e-assistant to connect with the right players to gain insights on core business topics, such as funding and other startup-building tips.
In August 2016, DBS launched DBS TechMatch in partnership with government entities Infocomm Investments and IPI Singapore. This programme provides an opportunity for SMEs to firstly articulate their business challenges, and then be matched with the viable tech solution providers after consultation and deep dives to understand their issues.
This gives SMEs very customised and tangible solutions to improve and build capabilities in their business. On the other hand, it is also an opportunity for tech startups to become solution providers and then collaborate with ecosystem players to design and build their solution concepts.
One SME that has benefitted from DBS TechMatch is JMD Pacific Pte Ltd, a wholesaler and distributor of sporting goods and fitness technology in Singapore, that was looking to build an inventory management system in-house. They were selected to undergo a Sprint Hack to tackle their business challenge.
“Overall it has been a good journey with DBS TechMatch. I’m pleasantly surprised that within less than 48 hours of submitting my online application, I was contacted on it and have a meeting arranged the following week. The TechMatch team was able to understand our company’s challenge and formulate the problem statement so that the student teams were able to work on a solution without much intervention from us.” said Jeremy Low, Business Development Manager at JMD.
“We started the sprint looking for a logistics solution to solve operational challenges, but emerged with a plan to outsource (the solution) and restructure our resources and skill sets to focus on marketing and strategic partnerships!”
F&B starter package
For entrepreneurs in the F&B line, DBS offers a package that goes beyond working capital and other financing support, it also provides attractive subscription rates for business tools catered to the F&B business. These include online ordering platform, Oddle; iPad Point-of-Sale (POS) system, iCHEF; purchasing and inventory management system, foodrazor; and business management operation tool, STACCK.
These opportunities extend all the way up to the implementation phase, wherein SMEs can tap into government innovation body SPRING Singapore to seek grant options and market applications for their products. Customers of DBS can then apply for a bridge financing loan through DBS Business Capabilities Loan after they have successfully received funding from SPRING.
But outside of these programmes, at a more basic level, DBS also helps cash-strapped startups either through tailored product pricing, or take their pick from different productivity tools that they can pick up at a lower cost when they open a new DBS business account.
Business utility tools at preferential rates
The DBS Digital Account, for example, helps startups keep their banking costs low. It has no minimum balance requirement hence no fall-below fees.
It has partnered with Talenox, a cloud-based HR software that automates management of payroll and leave. It is compatible with DBS IDEAL accounts and DBS business account holders enjoy six months of free usage.
Another notable partnership is with Singapore telco StarHub to provide perks such as a S$100 (US$71) discount for their handsets, and two years of free services.
Other banks are jumping into the game
Other Singapore-based banks such as UOB and OCBC are also stepping up their game to support startups.
In the case of UOB, it recently launched BizSmart, a cloud-based bundled business solution composed of five integrated applications that come with direct bank feed, aimed at helping small businesses improve their productivity. It is expected to reduce time spent on business processes by 40 per cent.
Recently, UOB also partnered with cloud-based e-commerce and B2B solutions provider cloudBuyand is in the midst of launching a marketplace for SMEs. This enables UOB’s SME customers to shop online independently to purchase business services and tools such as stationery, travel, general insurance as well as courier and logistics services.
For OCBC, it became the first bank in Southeast Asia to launch an open API. This has enabled developers to tap into its proprietary APIs such as brand and ATM locator, foreign exchange rates and smart card advisors and integrate them into their own platform.
One example would be a restaurant booking app that gives discounts when the bill is paid using OCBC credit card or a student loan application platform.
Advantages of DBS solutions
And while many banks are playing a part in boosting the startup ecosystem in their own way, DBS’s solutions have unique advantages.
DBS understands the many challenges a startup faces in a competitive market. And, therefore, it is able to provide holistic solutions that encompass all the support that a startup needs to grow to the next level; from financial support to business tools.
The cost savings may seem insignificant individually but when calculated on a broader, long term scale, can make all the difference to a startup with no room for extra cost or wastage.
First appeared at e27