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Ant Financial applies for wholesale digital banking license in Singapore

The move is in line with the firm’s commitment to promoting financial inclusion globally, says Ant Financial.

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Chinese fintech unicorn Ant Financial confirmed with KrASIA on Thursday that it has submitted an application to the Monetary Authority of Singapore for a digital wholesale banking license, which would allow the firm to serve corporate clients in the city-state.

The move is in line with the company’s commitment to promoting financial inclusion globally, said an Ant Financial spokesperson, adding that the company is “looking forward to contributing to the development of the digital banking landscape in Singapore”.

In July, the Monetary Authority of Singapore announced that it would issue up to three digital wholesale bank licenses and two digital full bank licenses. Wholesale bank license operators will be permitted to serve small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as other non-retail segments. According to Bloomberg, foreign firms operators can hold majority stakes and the capital commitment is SGP 100 million (USD 74.2 million), while full bank licenses require local control and SGP 1.5 billion in capital, and grant operators to serve all kinds of customers.

Razer Fintech, the financial arm of Chinese gaming hardware powerhouse Razer, also joined Singapore’s banking race, teaming up with local Singaporean entrepreneurs and regional billionaires to apply for a full digital banking license. Singapore-based ride-hailing company Grab also partnered with Singapore Telecommunications for a full license, KrASIA reported.

Singapore’s authorities will announce the winners in mid-2020, and the new operators are expected to start operations gradually from mid-2021, according to Reuters.

Back in May 2019, Ant Financial secured a virtual bank license in Hong Kong, where it will compete against Tencent, which also secured a license earlier in the year.

Ant Financial is the world’s most valuable private fintech at over USD 150 billion as of March 2019. The company operates payment app Alipay and reported over 900 million annual active users in China and 1.2 billion globally as of June, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.

The firm is also the biggest shareholder of digital banking unit Zhejiang E-commerce Bank, also known as MyBank, which offers a slew of financial services in China, including providing loans to micro-and-small-sized enterprises and accepting deposits from the public. The firm lent loans to nearly 12.3 million companies in 2018, according to its yearly report.