SINGAPUR: The task to go to the final moment of traveling abroad, former bank executive Andy Tang tried to find a changer that was open and close to his home late at night but failed to do so.
Although he could always buy his foreign banknotes at Changji airport banknotes, he knew the prices would not be favorable.
Soon an idea was born.
Today, the 38-year-old and his partner, Samuel Chan, a banker who still manages his own brick and mortar construction, are co-founders of the ATM in Singapore.
"It seems to us that we can create some value by creating a money-changing machine that reduces rental and labor costs," Mr. Tang said in an interview with CNA.
"When we added all of this together, we found that it can really create value for us as a company and for our customers," said Mr. Tang.
ACCESS TO THE HEART
Started on Friday (April 19th), the FX Buddy Cash Machine is located outside of Heartland Mall in Covent.
It was a conscious decision by the company to create an ATM in the heart of "taking care of people so they would not have to travel to the CBD to get the best exchange rates," said Mr. Tang.
Mr. Tang and Mr. Chan added that they want to expand their operations to other neighborhoods "as soon as possible", and further down the pipeline they might consider setting up some ATMs at the airport.
The two-way machine, currently serving an average of 10 clients per day, is the first of its kind in Singapore to allow customers to buy and sell foreign currencies.
Some hotels in Singapore also have automated currency exchange machines, but they currently allow customers to exchange Singapore dollar currencies.
FX Buddy allows customers to change their Singapore dollars in 10 currencies, including Indonesian Rupee, Chinese Yuan, Thai Baht, Malaysian Ringgit, Hong Kong Dollar, Japanese Yen, Australian Dollar, British Pound, Euros and US Dollars.
They can also convert seven foreign currencies – Chinese Yuan, Malaysian Ringgit, Hong Kong Dollar, Australian Dollar, British Pound, Euro, and US Dollar – into Singapore Dollars.
"These are the most popular countries that travel among the hearts of the world," said Mr. Chan.
Payment can be made with cash and PayNow. NETS payment will be available later next week.
The service is open only to residents of Singapore and permanent residents who will need to scan their personal cards at the ATM.
Mr. Tang said that FX Buddy uses interbank rates as the percentage changes daily. He added that they will be updated via a back-end server.
CHALLENGES AND REFUSAL
The creation of FX Buddy took more than two years to materialize.
– The initial stage was very difficult. We had to go to different places and suppliers. We had to go abroad to search for it. Every time we go somewhere, they (the suppliers) would say, "Are you just ordering a machine? And they would completely reject us, "Mr. Tang said.
"In the end, we managed to find a supplier who was very kind. We told them our specifications, what we wanted in our machine and they built it, "he added.
However, Mr Tang refused to say where the machine came from.
Licensing and regulatory approval were also a challenge, with the FX Buddy proposal going through "at least three reps" before Singapore's monetary authority (MAS) gave it a money change license.
"Currently, banks do not have this machine. So for MAS, this is a very new product, "said Mr. Chan. "Still (FX Buddy) really connects with the nation's drive for automation."
Mr. Siraj Ahmed, who runs the AJS Foreign Exchange, the only banker at the Heartlands Mall, said he was not worried about the FX Buddy launch.
The 55-year-old added that he was confident he would provide better prices and would be proud that he has been working for more than 11 years at the mall.
"Customers still prefer (carry out transactions) face-to-face. We have old customers, "Ahmed said. "We welcome the competition and they (FX Buddy) are part of our clever nation (initiative). They are (open) 24 hours until we close at 21:00. They provide convenience to people here. "