PwC’s design of a Central Lending Platform concept for Singapore: Acceleration and digitization for struggling SMEs

A pandemic-induced national problem with a PwC-designed solution

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic fallout, Singapore’s government sought to bolster the SME market, which employs 70% of the city-state’s workforce and generates 50% of its gross domestic product (GDP), in part through a risk-sharing program for loans to eligible SMEs. Early efforts attracted only 2% of the SMEs to apply for loans, which PwC attributed in part to lengthy loan application and approval processes exacerbated by the COVID-19 lockdown. The gap due to surge in demand and reduced supply provided an opportunity for PwC to design a Central Lending Platform to simplify the loan process, quickly connect SMEs to multiple banks in one single platform, facilitate faster access to capital, and provide Singapore’s government with analytics and data surrounding the SME sector and associated market share, including delivering insight into industry competitiveness to guide quicker and more meaningful policy decisions.

A platform to benefit Singapore’s banks and SMEs

PwC’s design of a Central Lending Platform provides a number of essential benefits for SMEs, Singapore banks and Singapore’s government, including the minimization of human efforts and errors in loan applications and processing; always-on, always available services; and the collection and assembly of previously uncollected data in a single, digital place.

According to PwC, banks prepared to loan to SMEs will rely on the platform for an “immediate eligibility assessment” of whether an SME meets the criteria developed by Singapore’s government. The digital platform will eliminate the need for banks’ loan relationship managers to check the completeness of documents, a process that PwC noted contributed to a 6- to 10-week waiting time from application submission to access to capital. Within three days of an SME’s application, banks will submit loan terms and conditions, although banks can submit loan terms and conditions ahead of the three-day window, and the applying SME can compare and evaluate. In addition, the platform should help banks more efficiently penetrate the SME market as well as accelerate the digitalization of Singapore’s banking sector.

In late August, PwC announced an initiative that can complement the Singapore government’s efforts to facilitate bank loans to small and midsize enterprises (SMEs). Given the confluence of technology, consulting and PwC’s continually evolving business model, TBR requested a discussion with the firm’s leaders working on this initiative. On Sept. 2, TBR spoke with Irene Liu, PwC’s Government and Public Services Co-Lead; Charles Loh, PwC Singapore Consulting Leader; Shierly Mondianti, PwC Southeast Asia Risk & Regulatory Consulting Manager; Andy Goldin, Southeast Asia Head of Advanced Analytics; and Lincoln Yin, CEO of Singapore-based financial technology (fintech) company RootAnt. This special report reflects the discussion and TBR’s ongoing analysis of PwC and its management consulting peers.

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