Singapore hands out first digital licences in big banking shakeup

online banking digital licences
Online banking digital licences. Image by Andrey Suslov |

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – A venture between Southeast Asian ride-hailing firm Grab and Singapore Telecommunications and internet platform company Sea Ltd have each won licences to run Singapore’s first digital banks, in the city-state’s biggest banking shakeup in two decades.

Alibaba Group affiliate Ant Group and a consortium comprising China’s AntgGreenland Financial Holding Group also won licences, Singapore’s banking regulator said on Friday.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) expects the new digital banks to start operations from early 2022 after meeting the necessary pre-conditions of Singapore, one of the world’s top financial centres.

“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,” said Ravi Menon, managing director of the MAS.

Analysts have said the development is likely to have little impact on incumbents DBS Group Holdings, Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp and United Overseas Bank , although licensees could use the opportunity as a step towards expanding into larger Southeast Asian markets.

Grab’s venture and Sea have won digital full bank licences that will allow them to take deposits from and offer services to both retail and non-retail customers.

Ant Group and the Greenland consortium were awarded digital wholesale banking licences.

(Reporting by Anshuman Daga and John Geddie; Editing by Christopher Cushing, Alex Richardson and Louise Heavens)

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