Wirecard's Singapore clients hope for clarity from probe

Some Singapore clients of global payment giant Wirecard are keeping watch as the German firm battles accusations of forgery and falsified accounts, while multiple investigations are under way.

For now, local companies, such as EZ-Link and Singtel, do not see much impact on Wirecard's operations on their cashless payment services.

An EZ-Link spokesman said: "We will continue to monitor the situation."

EZ-Link had worked with Wirecard to launch a smartphone top-up service for the ez-link card.

"We understand that Wirecard is cooperating with the authorities in investigations and we hope to see clarity soon," the spokesman added.

Police raided Wirecard's premises last Friday. Since then, several international law offices have started investigations into Wirecard on behalf of investors and are looking into a possible class action suit against it.

Wirecard has launched an internal inquiry and mandated law firm Rajah & Tann to investigate the allegations by a whistle-blower who tipped off Britain's Financial Times (FT). The payment group said it would sue FT over the publication of the three investigative reports on the allegations.

 
 
 
 

Wirecard, a blue-chip player on Germany's Dax index, has shed about US$10 billion (S$13.5 billion) in value since the reports first came out. Wirecard services can be found in more than 250,000 companies around the world, including Singapore, which is its base for expanding into the rest of Asia.

Founded in 1999, the fintech firm was known for providing payment services to pornography and gambling websites in its early days. The formula of combining technological know-how with a growing network of financial partners proved successful as countries and businesses sought to roll out cashless technology.

In 2008, ComfortDelGro outsourced the development of the cashless payment system for its Comfort and CityCab taxi fleet to Wirecard. That same year, Wirecard also helped set up and run MotorPay, an e-payment service that allows motorists to pay Electronic Road Pricing tolls using credit cards, with DBS Bank and the Land Transport Authority.

An LTA spokesman said it is unable to comment as police investigations are ongoing. Comfort did not respond by press time.

Wirecard partners Cheers to offer contactless payments at its outlets using ez-link cards, and also works with Singtel for its mobile wallet Dash.

A Singtel spokesman said: "Wirecard is one of several partners that we work with, and we do have alternative providers to minimise any disruption to our services."

In 2011, Wirecard signalled its aim to expand its Asian business by acquiring Singapore payment technology company Systems@Work. Already one of the leading fintech players here, Systems@Work had over 500 clients at the time, including banks, telcos and retailers.

Few Singaporeans are aware of Wirecard because it is the hidden "financial plumbing" that keeps businesses going, said Singapore University of Technology and Design senior lecturer of finance Douglas Streeter Rolph.

But Nanyang Business School associate professor Low Kin Yew said the incident could create doubts about the credibility of payment firms like Wirecard if it is found culpable. "If there are doubts about the credibility (of cashless payments), then user confidence will of course be affected."

Singapore FinTech Association president Chia Hock Lai said the investigations deserve time to fully address the allegations. "We keenly wait for the authorities to complete their work into the matter and respect the outcome of their findings."