Surge in RTGS payments amid COVID-19 pandemic

Azlan Othman

There has been a significant increase in consumer payments through the Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) system between March and October this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, compared to the same period last year. The 116 per cent rise is attributed to the waiver of online local interbank fees and charges in the banking industry.

This was stated by Minister of Home Affairs Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Haji Awang Abu Bakar bin Haji Apong at the World FinTech Festival (WFF) in Brunei Darussalam at The Empire Brunei yesterday.

The minister, who is also Deputy Chairman of Autoriti Monetari Brunei Darussalam (AMBD) Board of Directors, said despite being driven primarily by the pandemic “we foresee the trend will spur a shift in local consumers’ behaviour and preference, which may outlast the pandemic”.

“The trend presents a window of opportunity for the local FinTech ecosystem. Let us ride the momentum and mobilise our resources to advance this agenda, which will ultimately contribute to the nation’s aspiration of becoming a Smart Nation, as outlined in the Digital Economy Masterplan,” he said.

Looking ahead, Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Haji Awang Abu Bakar said Brunei Darussalam will continue to embrace FinTech but will need to foster an inclusive and attractive FinTech ecosystem.

“The road ahead will be paved with a variety of initiatives enabled through collaborative efforts between AMBD and key stakeholders. In this regard, I am happy to announce that AMBD will release a White Paper on ‘The State of FinTech in Brunei Darussalam’, which will include recommendations on developing the FinTech ecosystem in the country.”

Minister of Home Affairs Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Haji Awang Abu Bakar bin Haji Apong and Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office Dato Seri Setia Haji Awang Abdul Mokti bin Haji Mohd Daud at the World FinTech Festival. PHOTO: AZLAN OTHMAN

These recommendations include providing an attractive and favourable regulatory environment for FinTech where AMBD will work on providing certainty on key FinTech areas such as E-KYC and digital banking.

“Recognising that no regulatory framework should be static, AMBD will keep an open mind in the development of a future-proof regulatory framework, to ensure it encourages the adoption of new technologies while taking into account emerging threats,” the minister said.

“The second recommendation is to ensure the payment and digital infrastructures are future ready. AMBD is working with the industry to develop a shared ‘Digital Payment Hub’ that will centralise digital transactions and facilitate instant payments. All Payment Service Providers (PSPs) can expect to be connected in real-time to support an open and competitive market.

The hub will allow digital payments to be made through various use cases such as physical point-of-sale and in e-commerce applications.”

The third recommendation is the establishment of the Brunei Darussalam FinTech Association. “As seen in most countries, local industry players are highly encouraged to establish a FinTech association. The association can act as a networking platform to centralise all FinTech related activities within the country and to forge memoranda of understandings (MoUs) with other FinTech hubs,” Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Haji Awang Abu Bakar said.

“This would also encourage collaboration among stakeholders in developing tailored approaches, which are appropriate in the local context, through experimentation and adaptation of frameworks and best practices,” he added.

The Centre for Islamic Banking, Finance and Management (CIBFM), with the support of AMBD, held the WFF in Brunei Darussalam, as part of the Singapore FinTech Festival (SFF) 2020.

Also present were Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office Dato Seri Setia Haji Awang Abdul Mokti bin Haji Mohd Daud, Deputy State Mufti Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Japar bin Haji Mat Dain @ Maidin, members of the AMBD Board of Directors; CIBFM Board of Directors, AMBD senior officers, as well as members of government ministries and agencies, banks, private companies and higher education institutions.

The event commenced with a welcoming remark by AMBD Managing Director Hajah Rokiah binti Haji Badar, followed by opening remarks by Deputy High Commissioner of the Republic of Singapore to Brunei Darussalam Raymond Chow.

Among the thematic topics deliberated during the event included the current digital infrastructure, and regulations and standards required to further expand the financial technology sector.

A fireside chat titled ‘Digital transformation in Financial Services During COVID-19 and Beyond’ was also held. Speaking during the panel discussions were industry experts including Deputy Permanent Secretary (Infocommunications, Cybersecurity, Strategy and Corporate) at the Ministry of Transport and Infocommunications Haji Hairul Mohd Daud bin Haji Abdul Karim; AMBD Assistant Executive Director Mohd Khairul Zaki bin Haji Mohidin, FinTech Head of Payment System and Oversight Simon Hansman and Baiduri Bank’s Head of Group Information and Technology Juswira Putra bin Haji Momin.

Also participating online were Yong Sheng Le and Kaitlyn Thinn from Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), Tan Chee Hau of the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office, and Validus Co-Founder and Executive Chairman Ajit Raikar.