The POSB experience
Being a senior has its privileges as seen through the eyes of one local bank, who is pulling out all the stops to help this special group.
BY: Eleanor Yap
Sixty-two-year-old Betty Lee has found her second career after retiring earlier this year after putting in 17 years’ in the banking industry. Through an initiative called the POSB Active Neighbours programme, as a result of a partnership with the bank and the Council for Third Age (C3A), Lee works five days a week from 5pm to 7pm plus five hours on Saturdays (her hours were increased as of December 1) at POSB Suntec City branch. The grandmother of one assists customers, especially her peers, with their banking transactions and encourages the use of self-service banking services.
Keeping seniors engaged
Thanks to this initiative, she has found meaningful employment and a chance to keep active, and contribute to the community. Said Lee, “To me, life is always ‘learning in progress’. The POSB Active Neighbours programme gave me a chance to learn more about the retail side of banking and self-service banking services. Technology is the way to move forward and I am pleased to play a part in encouraging seniors to use ATMs and other self-service banking services. I’ve made many new friends in other Active Neighbours and regular customers, so I’m really enjoying myself!”
She is one of the 60 pioneer batch of POSB Active Neighbours (75 percent or over 40 of them are aged 50 and above, while 20 are above 60 years old), who completed a three-day training programme in July and were deployed to 52 POSB branches islandwide. She and the rest earn $8 an hour. According to POSB, within two weeks of the programme’s launch in June this year, the bank received close to 1,200 applications. According to POSB, the criteria include the ability to meet the physical demand of the job, can speak English and at least one local language, and enjoy interacting with others.
Said Rajan Raju, head of Consumer Banking Group, DBS Bank, “The response from the POSB Active Neighbours and our customers is heartening. Many of our POSB Active Neighbours have told us that they like this programme because it allows them to play an active role in the community while maintaining their lifestyles and family commitments. Our customers, especially the seniors, are pleased that someone is at hand to facilitate their banking transactions.” He added that due to the programme’s success, POSB is planning to double the number next year to 120 Active Neighbours. The pioneer batch were recognised recently in a ceremony that was presided by Minister Lim Boon Heng of the Prime Minister’s Office (below).
Gerard Ee, chairman of C3A, added: “While the POSB Active Neighbours programme may be small today, it has the potential to grow and be a blueprint for how businesses can provide meaningful and desirable employment to seniors and better serve the needs of a significant customer segment, without having to make huge investments in research and product development or make drastic changes in the workplace.”
Other senior initiatives
Under the POSB-C3A partnership, both parties will educate Singaporeans on planning ahead for their retirement as well as equip seniors with the knowledge on everyday financial security and needs. The first quarterly workshop on Internet banking was held in October. The next one is set for January but the dates are yet confirmed. Future topics for the workshops include health (common illnesses and preventive measures, managing healthcare costs, taking care of protection needs, etc), wealth (know your investment products, Will writing/estate planning, stretching your dollar, etc) and freedom (banking at your convenience such as ATMs and AXS, how to use credit/debit card wisely, etc). There are also plans to train some POSB Active Neighbours to conduct selected financial literacy workshops for seniors. With the enlarged pool of trainers, POSB and C3A hope to increase the frequency and reach of the workshops in 2010.
To recognise the invaluable contributions of seniors to the nation and community, the two organisations have an ongoing reward programme to help seniors stretch their dollars as they engage in their favourite pastimes. In conjunction with the festive season, POSB branches will be giving away vouchers entitling seniors to special benefits ranging from dining and IT courses, to cooking and exercise classes.
POSB also provides special products and services for seniors. Every Tuesday, POSB will set up dedicated counters to serve seniors during the first three opening hours. Dubbed “Special Tuesdays”, seniors are also served drinks and snacks as they wait to perform their banking transactions. The bank also offers 50-Plus Care, a specially-designed personal accident plan for seniors launched last year, which extends preferential rates for S$ fixed deposits between $10,000 and $49,999 for six to 24 months tenors – customers aged between 50 to 59 years old and those older will enjoy 0.1% and 0.125% above board rate respectively. It also covers Traditional Chinese Medicine to cater to individual’s preferences. On rainy days in December, POSB plans to give away umbrellas to those aged 45 and above.
It is no surprise that POSB is pulling out all stops to cater to this group. The bank currently serves 1.25 million customers aged 45 and above, many who started banking at POSB from a very young age. Said DBS’ Raju: “We recognise and deeply treasure the strong affinity that our customers, especially the seniors, have with us. … Through the various programmes under the strategic partnership with C3A, we hope to engage and educate seniors so that they can enjoy the next phase of their lives.”
** Those interested in the POSB Active Neighbour Programme can collect an application form from any POSB branch from now till 12 December. If you have applied before, you need not re-apply as POSB will review the applications received previously.
OTHER PRO-SENIOR COMPANIES MAKING THE NEWS:
• Khoo Teck Puat Hospital is looking for mature, friendly and empathetic Singaporeans to fill more than 300 vacancies in the new hospital in Yishun. The positions are for housekeeping staff and patient assistants, who will help in the operating theatres, provide financial counselling and transport patients, among other duties. The hospital, which is run by public-health group Alexandra Health, will open in phases next year. For more details, call the hotline of e2i or Employment and Employability Institute, which is screening jobseekers, at 6474 3777.
• Maybank Singapore has become the first bank to, together with its unions, sign a policy on the re-employment of older workers based on the latest tripartite guidelines, according to Weekend Today newspaper. It will provide pre-retirement counselling 12 months before employees turn 62 and give them three months’ notice about their re-employment status. Should there be no job match within the organisation, the bank will help them find work outside. If all fails, the bank will offer them a one-off Employment Assistance Payment. Maybank has also decided not to apply the discretionary wage cut of up to 10 percent when staff turn 60.