Singapore gives four digital bank licences to tech firms

Is Jack Ma and the Chinese Communist Party infiltrating APAC’s most important institutional and interbank financial center?

Japan and Singapore follow fintech-friendly steps

Singapore, the Asia Pacific’s longstanding largest financial center for the interbank and institutional trading sector, has shown its proponency with regard to digital banks this week.

The national regulatory authority, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, has awarded full virtual banking licences to a Grab-Singtel consortium and tech giant Sea, and digital wholesale bank licences to Ant Group and a coalition comprising Greenland Financial Holdings Group, Linklogis Hong Kong, and Beijing Co-operative Equity Investment Fund Management.

The central bank announced the digital bank framework in June 2019 with the aim of enabling non-bank players with innovative business models to offer digital banking services.

Two licences for full digital retail banks were up for grabs as well as three digital wholesale banking licences.

In total, up to 14 eligible applicants from 21 bids were put under the rule.

MAS says it expects the new digital banks to commence operations from early 2022.

The DWB banks will initially operate on a pilot basis and, depending on the outcome, MAS says it may open the market to more applicants in the future.

Grab-Singtel says it intends to set up a dedicated team of 200 professional in product, data, technology, risk finance and compliance to be ready for launch in early 2022. The company has appointed Charles Wong, Citibank’s head of retail operations in Singapore, as CEO.

Ravi Menon, managing director of MAS, says: “MAS applied a rigorous, merit-based process to select a strong slate of digital banks. We expect them to thrive alongside the incumbent banks and raise the industry’s bar in delivering quality financial services, particularly for currently underserved businesses and individuals. They will further strengthen Singapore’s financial sector for the digital economy of the future.”

Gaming group Razer – which filed an application under the brand Razer Youth Bank – was among those who failed to make the cut.

In a statement expressing its disappointment, the firm says: “We intend to roll out Razer Youth Bank where Razer and Razer Fintech have already established a strong user base and local business presence, be it in regional countries such as Malaysia and the Philippines where digital banking application processes are expected to kickstart in the near term or other regions, such as Europe, Middle East or Latin America where regulators are similarly supportive of innovation in the banking sector to better serve the unbanked and underserved segments of the economy.

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