Alibaba Group’s Ant Financial announced today that it might apply for a digital banking license in Singapore, making it a heavyweight contender to the race.
The Chinese firm told Bloomberg News in an email reply that they are “actively looking into this opportunity”.
Other firms that have expressed interest in the virtual bank license include SEA’s largest automotive marketplace Carro, Ping An’s fintech unit OneConnect, gaming firm Razer, ride-hailing giant Grab, and local telco Singtel.
In July, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said that it will issue up to five digital bank licenses to non-banks to open up the industry.
These refer to financial institutions that fulfil all their transactions and banking related services online, without having physical branches.
Out of the five licenses, there will be two digital full bank licenses that allow licensees to serve retail customers through a wide range of financial services.
Firms that are granted this license can also take deposits from customers.
The remaining three are set aside for digital wholesale bank licenses, which enable licensees to serve SMEs and other non-retail segments.
Ant Financial did not disclose what type of license it is looking to apply for, but expressed that it will be easier to meet the requirements for the wholesale license.
To add on, Ant Financial is also getting into digital banking in Hong Kong.
Earlier this year, its Ant SME Services (Hong Kong) Ltd. unit received a permit from the Hong Kong Monetary Authority to operate a virtual bank there.
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