Since 2018, POSB (a subsidiary of DBS Bank) remains the only bank to collaborate with the Migrant Workers Centre (MWC) and the Centre for Domestic Employees to set up banking accounts for Singapore’s migrant workers. Increased financial access and literacy can help migrant workers safekeep and grow their finances more efficiently, while providing a digital record of transactions between migrant workers and their employees. POSB’s programme with MWC includes access to benefits exclusive for migrant workers, such as remittance, insurance, telco services and more. The POSB Jolly app allows MWs, who often have limited time to visit branches, uninterrupted access to relevant services through their mobile phones. This was especially pertinent when Singapore imposed lockdown restrictions between April and June 2020 to curb the spread of COVID-19, when more than 300,000 MWs were mostly confined to their dormitories, and unable to bank physically at POSB or DBS branches.
We understand that the banking needs most important to MWs are:
During the Covid-19 outbreak, our challenge was how to reach out MWs to educate them on the POSB Jolly app and the services availed to them, while preparing resources which they could have easy access to. With COVID-19 curtailing physical outreach at the dormitories, POSB had to adapt in how it reached out to the community.
At the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak, POSB started expediting our plans to fully digitalise the end-to-end opening of accounts for MWs, which meant that MWs need not set foot in a bank branch to complete their account opening process. This helped ensure that MWs without access to a bank account pre-pandemic could easily set one up despite the lockdown restrictions in place. The fully digitalised bank account opening process for MWs was successfully launched on 27 March 2020, just a week before the first batch of dormitories in Singapore were placed under quarantine due to a high number of Covid-19 cases among the MW community. The implementation allowed the bank to facilitate remote account opening for all MWs confined to their dormitories, enabling uninterrupted salary crediting, and peace of mind for them during a time of uncertainity.
We understood that salary crediting was one of the MWs' key concerns, as many of the MWs in Singapore are primary breadwinners who need to remit money back to their home countries to support their loved ones. The bank stepped up to educate and guide MWs to set up digital channels for remittance purposes, by providing step-by-step infographic materials – digitally as well by distributing 280,000 physical brochures to all of Singapore's 43 Purpose-Built Dormitories – within a week. Dedicated hotlines with native speakers of languges commonly spoken by Singapore's MW community were set up to assist with queries, along with translation of the POSB materials into 6 native languages for ease of reference. Leveraging on our strong ecosystem network, the POSB team collaborated with NGOs and Government Agencies to ensure our materials were disseminated quickly to all MWs. We even created a series of bite-sized videos in native languages to be screened for MWs in their dormitories.
The bank’s strong digital focus provided MWs with a platform to ensure their livelihoods could be well protected despite the restrictions they faced in their day-to-day lives during the pandemic.
In April 2020, POSB recorded about 41,000 MW bank accounts opened, compared to the pre-pandemic normal average monthly sign-up of 11,000 to 13,000.
The number of workers remitting their salaries through POSB Jolly grew from 45,000 in January 2020 to 100,000 in June 2020, a more than two-fold increase within the span of less than six months.
The number of new POSB Jolly users per month on average has doubled, from a previous average of 17,000 per month to more than 34,000 per month.
POSB today has banked about 500,000 MWs and aims to bank the remaining 250,000 MWs in Singapore by end 2020.