18 October 2017

Trust – the key to tech adoption

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By Cherie Teng, Managing Director and Head of Corporate Banking, HSBC Singapore. First published in The Edge, 16 October, 2017.

It took some convincing, but my teenage son prevailed and I finally set up a digital wallet. I haven't looked back since. And by that, 1 mean that I'm actually using it. It's not that I hadn't been introduced to the idea of a digital wallet – cashless shopping through your mobile, that's as easy as it gets.

It's just the thought of sending my credit card details into the depths of the electronic ether doesn't sit well with me. That requires a tech-savvy son to drag me into the 21st century with assurances that all is well and good.

Does this sound and feel familiar? I'm pretty sure I'm not the only parent subjected to their children's eyeball-rolling. This inner turmoil, dissonance if you will, between knowing that technology will improve my life versus my hesitation to adopt it is the focus of a new HSBC survey, "Trust in Technology".The survey found that Singaporeans are positive about new technology but concerned about personal data loss. I can relate to that.

Sixty-seven per cent of respondents believe that advances in technology will make the world a better place, and yet about the same number, 60 per cent, wouldn't be willing to share any personal data through social media in exchange for better banking services.

Perhaps that's why the take-up rate for new technology is skewed towards the young. Millennial have no such qualms about sharing their personal information. My kids certainly don't have that problem. And you can see this reflected in the current generation of entrepreneurs who are at the forefront of using technology to further their businesses.

Successful entrepreneurs have a passionate belief in their ability to turn their ideas into reality. Their innovations are seen as a way to solve problems, improve lives and even change the world. And they do this through trust in technology. Half of the Singaporeans surveyed believe the next decade will  pave the way for biometric technology – fingerprint and facial coding – as the only way to access financial information. And this is more than likely since financial services are investing in that direction.

Security is becoming quicker, simpler and more reliable through biometrics. Apps make it quick to send money and check accounts.

Online consultation services, nicknamed robo-advisers, are bringing expert guidance on investment and pensions to a wider audience.

And all this benefits businesses, big and small alike. This deluge of new technology is a challenge for users, though, especially those like me.

While age is a big factor, the speed of adoption depends on a number of other things such as price and availability, and trust.

No one buys anything unless they trust it. Advertisers spend a fortune building trust. Designers design to nurture trust. You can have the most ingenious of technology but, without trust, it's never going to take off. That's why companies put out commercials to raise awareness about the use of digital wallets in the food courts. It's a matter of building trust.

That's exactly the case of Singapore. We are focused on developing four areas of the digital economy – artificial intelligence and data science; cybersecurity; Internet of Things and future communications infrastructure and immersive media. So, the infrastructure is in place.

An example was the recent launch of PayNow, a common payments system that allows customers of various partner banks to transfer money using their mobile numbers.

In fact, our technology infrastructure is a showcase to the world. But the hurdle is getting the public's buy-in, more specifically, the buy-in from Generation X.

The buy-in – in other words, the trust – has the potential to transform industries and enhance people's lives. And that's what needs to be improved. The focus is on trust as reflected in HSBC's Trust in Technology survey, which offers insights into what can be done.

Essential lessons for policymakers and brands include investing in education to minimise the gap between technology and public awareness; simplifying interfaces; and accelerating the use of biometrics while enhancing behavioural security.

These measures address the trust deficit, and their impact will be significant. Education helps novices like me understand how the technology works, but ultimately, it's the actual usage – unlocking my mobile phone with my fingerprint and going cashless on taxis – that will evangelise the benefits of technology to the widest possible number of people.

This document was prepared by The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, Singapore Branch (“HSBC” or “we”) and published in The Edge, 16 October, 2017.

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