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OCBC app to offer voice banking

Singapore's Smart Nation push saw a new development with OCBC tapping Apple's Siri virtual assistant to allow businesses to transfer funds just by speaking to their Apple iPhone.

This will be possible with next Monday's roll-out of a new feature on its OCBC business mobile banking app. It is targeted at the bank's 120,000 small and medium-sized enterprises' e-banking business customers. OCBC holds the lion's share of the SME business bank accounts in Singapore.

The app works on Apple's iOS 11 operating system and will also allow customers to make account balance inquiries through the virtual assistant. For starters, fund transfers via Siri can be made only to business associates with an OCBC account but will be extended to transfers to other bank accounts later.

"This launch of voice banking signals the beginning of a new wave of digital services that we will deliver for our business customers," said Mr Linus Goh, OCBC Bank's head of global commercial banking.

Also from Monday, a new feature will allow fund transfers from the same app to be made to other bank accounts via the Fast online interbank funds transfer system. This cannot be done through Siri yet.

While the Siri option is new for businesses, the bank's consumer banking customers have been able to send money to a person in their contact list since October last year. For instance, users say "pay John Tan $50". The user will be guided to complete the transfer using the OCBC Pay Anyone feature in the OCBC mobile banking app. And the recipient does not need to be an account holder with the bank.

Business users need an extra step - to verify the request with a fingerprint on the phone.

For fund transfers, the user will then be guided to confirm the paying account and select the payee from a list. An SMS one-time password must also be entered to complete the transfer.

The volume of e-payments among OCBC business accounts grew 33 per cent from July 2015 to July this year, according to the bank. The number of inquiries to check business account balances via the OCBC business mobile banking app has also more than doubled since June last year .

Said Ms Gwendoline Tan, pastry chef and owner of boutique patisserie Salt & Delight: "This is a practical feature... It integrates banking seamlessly into my life. I think such innovations are needed for more business owners to start using e-payments."