Top Banks in Singapore

Singapore, arguably the busiest business spot in Asia, has an economy that anyone would be proud of, and is recognized widely as one of the most vibrant trade locations in the world. This stature of Singapore rests squarely on a few solid pillars, namely– stability, an enterprising and ready workforce, unmatched infrastructure, and a rock solid banking system.

Of these four aspects, the banking sector is particularly interesting because of the highly competitive scenario and the presence of big foreign names.  The country is home today to some of the finest banks, offering services that are rated among the best.

Banks in Singapore

A recent study showed that there are a total of 111 commercial banks and 49 merchant banks operating in Singapore, offering a wide range of banking services.  However, if we were to draw up a list of top banks, merchant banks usually don’t make it, because of their special focus, and it is commercial banks that usually come up on the list, for their services provided in the retail sector.

Local and Foreign Banks in Singapore

Local Banks in Singapore
Local Banks in Singapore

For the sake of better understanding, the banks can be fundamentally divided into two categories: local banks and foreign banks. In the local bank list, banks like Development Bank of Singapore, Overseas Chinese Banking Corporation and United Overseas Bank are popular ones and enjoy a leader’s reputation.

Foreign Banks in Singapore

But, the big competition is in the foreign bank category, where big names vie with each other to offer the best, making the scenario advantageous to the patron. The foreign category is dominated by banks like HSBC, Standard Chartered and Citibank.

Citibank Singapore

Citibank Singapore
Citibank Singapore

The Citigroup particularly is very popular in Singapore, and perhaps the brands popularity has to do with the group’s continued and long term commitment to Singapore. Though there are other big foreign names that have made quite a mark,

Citibank’s growth has been relatively rapid and with awards like the People Developer Standard Award associated with the brand, the group has managed to attain a different meaning to Singaporeans altogether. Today the Citibank occupies one of the largest shares in Singapore, offering regular banking solutions, loans, financial advisory services and continues to appeal to the populace. It is increasingly perceived as a bank easy to do business with, and this perception reflects in the way people react to the Citigroup. In 2009 it was awarded the Best Bank in Asia, confirming its position as the most popular bank, with the people of Singapore.


Commercial Banking in Singapore

Singapore’s reputation as a great business center and a vibrant economy can be traced back to its colonial days, when its strategic location was capitalized by traders and entrepreneurs. Since then, the country has consistently worked on the early foundation laid, vigorously building on it to become the phenomena that it is now. Of the many factors that played a crucial role in the story of Singapore’s commercial success, one that stands out and merits special attention is banking.

Commercial banking in Singapore today is representative of the best that the world has to offer in the banking segment, but it is the result of long years of evolution. From being a basic modest framework for a trade center, to being a modern sophisticated banking system that today backs the famous Singaporean economy, the system has come a long way. And in this evolution, commercial banks particularly have played a crucial role, being the customer facing end of the banking sector. Anyone who has had a chance to bank with any of Singapore’s commercial banks will tell you how efficient and organized they are.

Commercial Banking
Commercial Banking

In 1999 when the commercial banking sector liberalization began, commercial banking took a giant leap in Singapore. Now, with foreign big names coming in, existing local banks had to up the ante and incorporate the latest and the best into their offerings, if they were to stay in competition. There were mergers and consolidations, making the banks better, stronger and readier to take on international competition.

They were many that went defunct but the ones that survived the onslaught of liberalization did so because they’re engineered themselves into a more efficient world class bank. The result–a stronger banking system and better banking services for the Singaporean patron.  Names like HSBC, Standard Chartered, Citibank, Bank of America etc became familiar names to Singaporeans. Commercial banks started playing a more engaging role in people’s lives and in the way they did businesses. Citibank for example, with its offerings started changing the face of commercial banking, through ATM and Phone Banking services.

Citibank popularized the ATM culture in the 80s when not many Singaporeans were exposed to it, and then again in the 90’s with the introduction of the round the clock Phone Banking service, it brought in a culture that readied the populace for a more sophisticated banking to follow, post liberalization.

Commercial banking in Singapore brought about a cultural change, influencing the way people spent and saved, and of course changed their approach to financial matters. The upmarket sophisticated Singapore shopping and spending culture that is so famous world over, has a lot to do with the reliable and easy banking tools, introduced by the commercial banks. The giving of licenses to six foreign banks to operate as full banks, between 1999-2002, further proliferated commercial banking, with the banks setting up ATM networks all across the country in an aim to include even the semi urban and  rural setting into their customer pool.

In 2005 Credit Sussie, the Swiss banking major, brought in Swiss style private banking to Singapore, and the move is a great example of how extra dimensions are being continuously added, strengthening and improving an already very strong commercial banking system in Singapore.

Personal Loans in Singapore

personal loan
Personal Loan in Singapore

Personal loans in Singapore can be obtained from three distinct quarters: banks, financial institutions and licensed money lenders. Although the fundamental idea of offering loans remains the same across sectors in Singapore, each loan providing entity will be different in its own way. Not all banks, financial institutions and money lenders offer personal loans in Singapore, so it’s important to arrive at a match between your loan requirements and the loan offering entity. Never be tempted to obtain a loan from anyone who is not licensed to offer a loan.

Let’s look at a few pointers that one needs to consider

  • Pick up a loan amount that you are able to pay, easily and consistently
  • A low rate of interest need not always mean a good deal. There can be default fees, other hidden penalties and the rate of
    increase in your interest if you happen to default matters
  • Decide if you want a fixed flat interest rate or a reducing interest
  • Find out if there is an early closure fee

These key pointers apart, as a rule try to borrow from banks as much as you can, because established banks usually have their regulated norms and come under scrutiny constantly. They cannot afford to be arbitrary in their interests and policies. Money lending institutions however need not be that careful.

Need Personal LoanLuckily in Singapore, it is easier to obtain a personal loan than any other loan and there are a whole lot of loan providers. Skyline credit, Credit assist and JR Star credit are some of the known names in the licensed money lending segment in Singapore, while HSBC, ANZ Singapore, and Citibank are a some of the well known banks that offer personal loans.

Citibank Personal loans have installment choices up to 60 month tenure, an option private moneylenders might not have. Bank’s Loan interest rates too, like Citibank’s, usually reflect the averages prevailing in the market and cannot be arbitrary, while a private lender can set their own norms.

Even though in Singapore the business of lending is strictly regulated, it is always best to go with established names and not fall for the famous “ unbelievably less interest rate”. Some banks also call you and speak to you in detail if you fill up relevant information online, and personally I think its the right way to go about it, by having a detailed chat before taking a decision.