Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 23 January 2020

Two more consortiums join Singapore's digital banking licence race

Singapore is offering five digital banking licences to private sector investors

A man takes a photo as the financial business district looms in the background in Singapore. There are five digital banking licences up for grabs in the city state.  AFP 
A man takes a photo as the financial business district looms in the background in Singapore. There are five digital banking licences up for grabs in the city state.  AFP 

Two more consortiums said they submitted bids for digital banking licences in Singapore as companies ranging from a massage chair maker to a property giant and Chinese FinTech firms joined forces to go for the sought-after permits.

Beyond Consortium, led by one of Asia’s largest massage chair makers, V3 Group and stored-value card company EZ-Link, submitted a bid to the Monetary Authority of Singapore for a digital full bank license, according to a statement on Sunday.

Singapore-listed FinTech firm iFast said on Friday that a bid was submitted at the end of December together with a consortium of Chinese partners. The groups join companies such as Razer and Grab Holdings in the race for such licences in the South-east Asian nation.

The monetary authority unveiled plans last year to grant as many as five virtual bank licences to boost competition and innovation, and is set to announce the winners in mid-2020. South-east Asia’s digital lending market is expected to more than quadruple to $110 billion (Dh403.7bn) by 2025, according to a report by Bain & Co, Google and Temasek Holdings.

Beyond Consortium also includes the Singapore Business Federation; Temasek unit Heliconia Capital Management; MSIG Insurance (Singapore), a subsidiary of Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance; and property giant Far East Organisation.

The group intends to promote connectivity and support local small and medium-sized enterprises in extending their footprint in Asia, according to the statement.

iFast’s Chinese partners are Yillion Group and Hande Group. Yillion operates one of four digital banks in China and counts Hong Kong-listed Internet firm Meituan Dianping as a shareholder. Hande is a Chinese FinTech company founded by Cao Tong, the former president of Webank, China’s first digital bank that’s also backed by Tencent Holdings.

iFast is tapping into the unique strengths and experiences of each consortium member to better address some of the inefficiencies, and assist the under-served market segments in Singapore’s banking industry, chief executive, Lim Chung Chun, said in an exchange filing.

Efforts to open up the Singapore banking industry to technology companies come on the heels of a similar move in Hong Kong, where Ant and Chinese competitors including Tencent Holdings obtained licenses earlier this year.

Razer has teamed up with homegrown Singaporean entrepreneurs and Asian billionaires. Grab, one of South-east Asia’s largest operators of online businesses from finance to car-hailing, is partnering Singapore Telecommunications to apply for a full digital banking licence.

For Grab, a digital banking business complements its growing suite of services built atop a ride-hailing platform that’s expanding regionally. Its advantage over other non-bank companies is an existing share of online payments built up under the GrabPay brand from ride-sharing users and local merchants.

Updated: January 5, 2020 06:20 PM

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