Online property marketplace may mean Bankers’ jobs are at risk

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DBS yesterday (July 24) announced the launch of Southeast Asia’s largest bank-led property marketplace. It is also the first bank in the region to launch an online property marketplace that offers listings from both agents and owners. DBS Property Marketplace has partnered major online property listing platforms EdgeProp and Averspace to provide some 100,000 listings and will soon include listings from SoReal.

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The site comes with Singapore’s first home financial planner that helps first-time home buyers determine their “affordability” price range based on their monthly cashflow, calculated from both their CPF and cash deposits. The marketplace will also be able to facilitate end-to-end paperless transactions, from cheque-free payments to digital documentation. In addition, the site will provide all the essential services buyers need to settle into their new homes by partnering with service providers, including utilities; digital home solutions such as internet and TV services; renovation; cleaning and moving services.

Property agents to get leg-up from SoReal to cope with digital disruption

Following the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s (MAS) announcement in June 2017 proposing to allow banks to operate digital platforms that match buyers and sellers of consumer goods or services, DBS became the first bank in Singapore to launch an online consumer marketplace with DBS Car Marketplace in August 2017, followed by DBS Electricity Marketplace in March 2018. The bank is uniquely well-placed in the marketplaces space as it banks most of Singapore – five million retail customers and six in 10 SMEs bank with DBS.

online property marketplace
Image credit: iCompareLoan.com

This enables DBS to build marketplaces with robust ecosystems in partnership with SMEs and with the aid of consumer insights. In addition, DBS’ sites are among the most visited in Singapore[1], allowing the bank to leverage its popular online channels to attract and redirect customers to relevant marketplaces for their lifestyle needs.

Said Jeremy Soo, Head of DBS Consumer Banking Group (Singapore), “While it is still early days, we believe this represents a paradigm shift for financial services in the future. As the largest bank in Singapore for both consumers and SMEs, we can effectively work in each sector’s ecosystem to partner SMEs and build data-driven customer research and benchmarking tools.”

He added: “This allows us to provide one-stop solutions that effectively anticipate our customers’ needs across their purchase journey. Singaporeans are extremely savvy online shoppers – 96% of Singaporeans use their digital devices for research and information, and 66% for goods and services consumption at least once a week[2] – so we aim to provide holistic, thoughtful, and comprehensive propositions unique to the market, and become a meaningful part of their purchase journey.”

Paul Ho, chief mortgage consultant at iCompareLoan.com, said that it is understandable that banks want to cash in on the online property marketplace trend.

Mr Ho said: “Banks want to have direct access to customers. Many banks also want to reduce the number of Bankers on the payroll. In short, Bankers’ jobs are at risk as Bank’s management is keen to reduce the number of bankers on their payroll. Banks are well funded, so naturally it is not a fair competition. The aim to roll out market places is to create and control the access to customers.”

Mr Ho added that smaller online property marketplace platforms and startups will especially be affected as banks like DBS roll out online platforms.

He said: “Smaller platforms will definitely be at a disadvantage in terms of the capital they have to make things work. However there are things that smaller platforms can do that the banks cannot do, smaller platforms tend to be more independent of the bank.”

But you will still need a online property marketplace where opinions are not dominated and curated by 1 big player, as this may be to the consumers’ disadvantage.

He added: “iCompareLoan in particular, will continue to work across many banks to create a win-win-win relationship between banks and consumers who want choices. iCompareLoan is committed to assist customers to find what they want.”

E-tools which augment property agents’ personalised services launched

Mr Ho believes that hacks such as what happened at SingHealth is no reason for banks such as DBS from taking to the online property marketplace which utilise personal records of account holders.

Mr Ho said: “Hacking occurs everyday, in fact we already placed our data with Google, Facebook, Yahoo and many others. Who is to say that these data is not shared with the various American Security agencies? How do we ever know? If Banks are afraid of hacking, then so should our Online Banking is at the same risks of hacking, these are risks that lurk everywhere on a daily basis.”

Adding: “Even if we have the most state of the art programs and patches, if there is a vulnerability within an Operating System, how should we ever know? When we travel in a car, the government knows where you travel, which road we take, where we park, and the cameras know what colour clothes we wear, so there really is no privacy at all. So the difference is, who holds on to these data only, either way, someone is watching over us.”

“Whether we like it or not, more and more data is being volunteered or crawled, scraped or sold across multiple platforms, such as those in the Big data and Artificial Intelligence, so there is no real privacy to speak,” Mr Ho said.

He added that the real worry is, “people against progress may use regulation or certain reasons to impose additional procedures, some of these are valid, some of these are simply to raise the barrier to stop new entrants and to raise the barrier for start ups. In short, some are protectionism.”

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