Even as Singapore pushes to become cheque-free by 2025, cash cheques continue to be used by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), typically to pay staff salaries, get cash for daily business operations or pay vendors for services rendered. While cheque usage by OCBC Bank’s retail banking customers has fallen 40 per cent since 2018, one in six cash transactions performed by OCBC Bank tellers over the counter are still cash cheque encashments; 95 per cent of these cheques are issued by SMEs.
Until cheques are fully phased out, and to drive digital literacy and adoption, OCBC Bank has rolled out a cheque encashment service across all its next-generation ATMs at 23 branches. Since February 2020, customers have been able to encash cheques – for up to a maximum of $30,000 in a single cheque – by depositing them into the ATM to instantly get cash. This capability enables the next-generation ATMs to process 90 per cent of all the cheques usually encashed at OCBC Bank branch teller counters. The average cheque encashment transaction time has been reduced to under three minutes at the ATM, as customers can save about 60 per cent of their time compared to waiting to be served at a branch. All the necessary security checks and verifications are performed by Digital Ambassadors on mobile tablets in real time, so security is not compromised. The next-generation ATMs have already processed cheque encashments totalling close to S$17 million.
Helping customers to embrace digital touchpoints
Since OCBC Bank’s next-generation ATMs were launched in May 2018, one in three of all over-the-counter branch consumer transactions has been migrated to these machines. They function like “mini branches”, enabling customers to complete 80 per cent of the most frequently requested over-the-counter services without having to wait in line at a branch. These transactions include cash deposits, cash withdrawals above daily ATM withdrawal limits, simultaneous cash and coin deposits, updating customers’ personal details and account- and card-related requests.
As we nudge more customers to use digital services for day-to-day banking requirements, digital banking adoption will increase even faster as jobs performed by traditional bank tellers become less relevant. To this end, OCBC Bank has re-skilled and up-skilled its branch service staff so that one in four are now digitally trained to perform roles as Digital Ambassadors. All Digital Ambassadors – 20 per cent are in their 40s and 50s – undergo an intensive training programme before taking on the role. They use mobile tablets to verify OCBC Bank customers’ identities and assist them in their transactions on next-generation ATMs.
Mr Sunny Quek, OCBC Bank’s Head of Consumer Financial Services Singapore, said: “As we continue to push Singapore’s cashless and cheque-less agenda, we are also accelerating our pace of digital transformation by continually upskilling our branch staff to take on digital roles. We recognise that there are still segments of customers who require services like cheque encashments; it takes up a significant amount of time for a customer and counter teller staff just to fulfil a single such transaction. We have addressed this by enabling transactions such as cheque encashment to be performed seamlessly on our next-generation ATMs instead.
“As we embark on our branch digital transformation journey, we don’t forget our staff. Through our OCBC Future Smart Programme, our tellers and branch service staff have acquired digital skills. At the same time, our staff are happy that they are able to do more value-added services than voluminous and repetitive over-the-counter tasks.”
Mr Adrian Tan, 62, a hairstylist who frequently goes to the Jurong East branch to encash his pay cheque, shared his experience: “OCBC’s new instant cheque encashment service is very useful. I’m glad OCBC is making more services digital or self-service as it really saves time. Previously, when I received my pay cheque, I had to queue up at the branch for a long time to cash it. Now, I can just use the new ATM to cash my cheque and get cash immediately. Time is of the essence to employees like us.”
How it works
Step 1: Insert ATM card and enter PIN
Step 2: Select ‘Cash from cheque’
Step 3: Enter cheque amount
Step 4: Digital ambassador will verify cheque information and insert cheque into cheque slot
Step 5: Confirm transaction on ATM screen
Step 6: Choose note denominations (for SME-issued cash cheques)
Step 7: Provide declaration on usage and purpose of $1,000 notes if applicable
Step 8: Select ‘receipt’ or ‘no receipt’
Step 9: Get cash