Singapore striving for domestic and regional e-payments interconnectivity

Singapore striving for domestic and regional e-payments interconnectivity

Above photo: Mr. Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) and Second Minister for Defence speaking at the Singapore FinTech Festival/ Credit: MAS (from Twitter page of MAS)

In a speech on November 13 at the Singapore FinTech Festival,
Mr. Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Education
(Higher Education and Skills) and Second Minister for Defence, said that the
largest merchant acquirer in Singapore, NETS, will establish a
framework to enable cross-border payment linkages with the National Payment
Corporation of India or NPCI. This is part of Singapore’s towards e-payments
interconnectivity not just domestically, but also with neighbours and regional

NPCI is an umbrella organisation for operating
retail payments and settlement systems in India. It is an initiative of India’s
central bank, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and Indian
Banks’ Association (IBA) under the provisions of the Payment and Settlement
Systems Act, 2007, for creating a robust Payment & Settlement
Infrastructure in India. Since demonetisation (all 500 and 1000 Rupee notes,
accounting for 86% of all currency in circulation, ceased to be legal tender) in
November last year, the Indian Government has been pushing to boost
digital payments
in the country and NCPI is playing a key role.

E-payments is also among the current national
strategic projects 
in Singapore’s Smart Nation plans and the
government has announced multiple
in the area this year.

From the middle of 2018 onwards, anyone who holds a NETS card
in Singapore can make online purchases on any NPCI e-commerce merchant website
in India.

NETS is also working with NPCI to allow NETS payments at all 2.8
million RuPay point of sale terminals in India. Conversely, a RuPay customer
can use his RuPay card or RuPay-enrolled mobile phone to pay at any NETS
acceptance point in Singapore.

RuPay is an Indian domestic card scheme conceived and
launched by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI). It was created
to fulfil the Reserve Bank of India’s desire to have a domestic, open loop and
multilateral system of payments in India

UOB (United Overseas Bank) and DBS have also made
inter-connection arrangements with UnionPay, which is the dominant payment card
platform in China. UOB or DBS UnionPay Cards
can be used at all UnionPay terminals in China.

Mr. Ong said, “We have started in a small way with India and
China, and will progressively work towards interconnectivity with other

He was talking about Singapore’s e-payment initiatives. He
said, “In Singapore which is a city-state, we want to ensure that our systems
are open loop. They should be interoperable, and yet convenient. This may mean
we have to put in some regulations, but these measures should not be

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) worked with the
industry to lay the infrastructure that will support an interoperable e-payment
system. FAST was launched in 2014, followed by PayNow
in July this year

FAST is Singapore’s 24×7 real-time inter-bank retail payment system. PayNow is
built upon FAST. It links bank accounts to mobile phone numbers or personal ID
numbers, and enables people to make inter-bank transfers into and out of their
bank accounts using just the mobile phone number or personal ID number. The secure, always available service is free to use for individuals.

less than 5 months, over 600,000 Singaporeans have registered for PayNow. 

Mr. Ong said that people are using PayNow for everyday transactions like
splitting lunch bills and sharing the cost of joint purchases.

But businesses stand to gain the most in efficiency and cost reduction by
adopting e-payments.

PayNow will therefore be extended to businesses around the
middle of next year. Businesses will be able to link their Unique Entity
Numbers, or UENs, to their bank accounts. This will allow businesses to pay
each other, or receive payments from customers, through their UENs.

Update: In his speech at the Singapore FinTech Festival on November 14, Mr. Ravi Menon, Managing Director of MAS, revealed that MAS and the Bank of Thailand have agreed to work together to link PayNow and PromptPay. PromptPay is Thailand's version of PayNow, enabling real-time, 24/7 domestic payments from one bank account to another. The aim is to enable someone in Singapore to send money to someone in Thailand, and vice versa, using just their mobile phone numbers, instantly, securely, and at any time of the day.

Many other e-payment solutions have emerged, using different tokens and apps
for different member groups, which can be confusing for people. To minimise
confusion and ensure convenience and ensure that all solutions adopt the same
uniform point-of-sale interface, the Singapore Government is working with the
industry to make e-payments adoption more pervasive and convenient.  

Through the Payments
, nation-wide common
QR specifications for e-payments
(SGQR) will be set next year. The major
banks, e-wallet providers, and payment schemes are part of the initiative. From
next year, the SGQR will be progressively rolled out across the island.

Mr. Ong said, “So in the very near future, when you walk
into a shop that accepts QR code payments, you should only see SGQR with all
the acceptance marks underneath it. If your payment method is accepted by the
merchant, you just need to use your smart phone to scan and pay to a single

 MAS and the banking industry have also been working on a unified point-of-sale,
or UPOS. More than 17,500 UPOS terminals have been deployed at merchants like
supermarkets, convenience stores, fast food chains, and government agencies.
Over the next two years, thousands more UPOS terminals will be rolled