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Singapore delays digital bank assessments as COVID-19 puts city under lockdown

The city’s monetary authority also announced a USD 125 million support package for the finance and fintech sectors.

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The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) announced today in a statement that it will extend the assessment period for awarding digital bank licenses to the second half of this year instead of from June as originally planned, as the city state enters a one-month lockdown starting from April 7.

The MAS said the extension will allow digital bank applicants to dedicate their resources and attention towards managing the immediate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their businesses while authorities can focus on ensuring Singapore’s monetary and financial stability.

The race for Singapore’s coveted digital bank licenses heated up at the beginning of this year, with 21 applicants fighting for two digital full bank licenses and three digital wholesale bank licenses. Notable names are in the run include Grab-SingtelRazer Fintech, Ant Financial, and TikTok’s owner Bytedance. Singaporean fintech firm MatchMove was the latest company to confirm its full digital bank bid last month.

The pandemic is hitting fintech companies hard, with CB Insights data suggesting that fintech deals are falling globally due to COVID-19 in the first quarter of this year. Fintech companies, especially lenders to SMEs and peer-to-peer lending platforms, are particularly vulnerable to risks from loan defaults.

On April 8, MAS also announced a USD 125 million support package for the financial and fintech sectors to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.