The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Thursday, October 02, 2008

The uncooperative banks of Singapore.

Singaporeans may not be aware of it, but a foreigner can see something about their banking system that is just not right. There is a lack of cooperation between banks in Singapore which leads to a general lowering of customer service.

In other countries that I have visited (about 20), it is usual for banks to cooperate with each other to the extent that any ATM card will work in any ATM. This is because the banks have agreed to share networks and give each other access to their networks. The result of this sharing of resources is greatly increased convenience for the customer: simply pop your ATM card into any bank's ATM and you can access your own account: wonderful.

In Singapore, however, things are different. Banks in Singapore freeze each other out. They treat each other as enemies rather than cooperative entities all working together to give the best to their customers. The result is that ATM cards in Singapore only work in a small selection of the ATM machines. You see, the banks have refused to cooperate with each other - in general - and so an ATM card often only works in the machines of the bank by which it was issued. This leads to a poor customer service for all - and, oddly, GREATER EXPENSE FOR THE INDIVIDUAL BANK. For each bank to operate its own network of machines is very expensive - so to offer sufficient service, more machines, per bank are necessary, than if the banks were sharing. So, not only are Singaporean banks uncooperative, they are stupid. The smart move would be to cooperate because then the best service could be offered at the lowest price to each bank. It is a win-win situation - the customer wins and the bank wins.

Everywhere else in the world, whose banking system I am aware of, has realized the advantages of ATM system cooperation - but Singapore hasn't. Here banks fight each other at the expense of the customer.

It is interesting to note who, too, is not cooperating. Today I put an ATM card from a local bank into a POSB atm. It didn't want to do business with my card...because it was the wrong bank. The same card was accepted by the ATM machines of the issuing bank, however. So, there was nothing wrong with the card. It is instructive that POSB is a Singapore government bank - so it is the Singaporean government that is not cooperating with other banks. However, it is not alone, all the local banks that I have observed personally, feud in this way, by refusing each other's cards. It is immature behaviour and is at the expense of the customer.

Competition has its place in business. However, that I think in a mature business environment there will be mutually beneficial cooperation, too. The absence of such cooperation in the ATM networks in Singapore is a sign of two things: immaturity in the management of these banks (read, "Stupidity") and a failure to put the customer first. In Singapore, it often seems, that the customer comes last.

The answer, in Singapore, is either to have more than one account, so that you can increase the number of ATMs to which you have access...or spend a lot longer looking for a cooperative machine.

Happy banking.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:44 PM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

here in canada, you are charged 3 (canadian) dollars for using your atm card at an 'alien' atm (i.e. one which does not belong to the issuing bank).

half of the fee goes to your bank, and the other to the bank whose services you have utilised.

so there is cooperation between banks, but at a cost borne by all of its clients.

7:10 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Re. Canada.

That is not ideal, either...and doesn't make a whole lot of sense since in swapping networks, they are already making an exchange of services: there is no need to bring money into it, as well - unless you are greedy (which they clearly are.)

It should be a free exchange of networks for the benefit of all...that is the best spirit with which to conduct business.

Thanks for letting me know the Canadian situation (I have never been there!)

8:24 AM  
Blogger beAr said...

i believe cards issued by UOB and OCBC may be used interchangeably at each other's ATMs for a nominal fee (something in the region of 30 cents).

11:09 AM  
Anonymous Wang said...


Doth protest too much on this.
In Australia and NZ,if you use an alien ATM, you would be charge extra and further if you exceed 2 or 3 transactions per month, you would be imposed bank charges.


2:04 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thanks BeAr for letting me know. If so, it is a first and welcome step towards cooperation among the banks here - a pity it is not common, though.

9:26 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Wang, I have not been to Australia or NZ, my knowledge comes from European banking systems where cooperation is the norm.

Given what you have said, it is a better situation in Aus and NZ than in Singapore - because at least you CAN use your card in other systems: here you cannot, basically.

It is regrettable that they charge for it, though...there is no need.

So, no, I don't protest too observation regarding Singapore's banking stands. The rest of the world, in general cooperates, Singaporean banking doesn't.

9:28 PM  
Blogger Xtrocious said...

This is called protecting one's turf!

If my memory serves me correctly, all the 5 local banks (not counting POSB) used to share a network of ATMs...

But then came the mergers (Keppel and TatLee were merged into one before being gobbled up by OCBC, while UOB took over OUB and DBS swallowed POSB)...

It was the DBS/POSB merger that changed everything - suddenly the DBS found itself with the largest network of ATMs around and decided that it would not want to share...

Hence it took itself out of the UOB-OCBC ATM network...

Again, it's the same story with the other local banks - they were also unwilling to share the ATMs with the foreign banks to protect their turf...

If I am not wrong - each ATM of the foreign bank counted as 1 branch in the past - hence they were unable to have ATMs at will...

I believe the ruling has since changed but someone may want to confirm that...

This led to the foreign banks here operating their own system...

5:09 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you Xtrocious for your valuable background on the situation. If what you have written is so - then the culprits are the Singapore government owned banks DBS and POSB. That seems really strange. I have never heard of a national bank behaving like this anywhere else: they are normally quite magnanimous. Here, however, they seem to have precipitated a destructive lack of cooperation among the banks. It stinks, really...because the service the banks give here is well below what one grew to expect in most European countries. It seems that quality service is not the aim, here, though...something else is.


5:29 PM  
Blogger Agagooga said...

In the Netherlands, ATMs work like in Singapore.

3:31 PM  

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