Grab-Singtel consortium awarded full digital bank licence, looks to fill 200 roles by 2021

Grab and Singtel’s consortium has been selected by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to set up a digital full bank in Singapore. The consortium has appointed Charles Wong (pictured), who was previously Grab’s senior managing director, as its CEO.

According to a press release, it will also set up a dedicated team and fill around 200 roles by end 2021. These roles will be in the areas of product, data, technology, risk, finance and compliance. It is added that the consortium will create more opportunities for Singaporeans to take on technology and fintech-related roles, and will train and equip them with the requisite skill sets in cyber and information security, data science and analytics as well as tech engineering.

The consortium is said to focus on serving consumers and small businesses, starting with time-starved young professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs), gig workers with flexible incomes, and micro-small medium enterprises (SMEs) who face limited access to financing. It is added that Grab and Singtel will enable these underserved groups to “easily access transparent financial services” that are embedded in their everyday activities.

Grab and Singtel first formed its consortium in December 2019 to apply for the licence to launch a digital full bank. Grab has a 60% stake in the consortium entity while Singtel holds a 40% stake. The consortium aims to formally launch the digital bank in early 2022, as per the press release by Grab. The digital bank is said to be a “natural extension” of the Grab financial group as well as the mobile financial business of Singtel

According to Grab, the two companies’ priority is to create the most seamless and secure digital banking experience in Singapore. To achieve this, Grab said the consortium has already started assembling a team of experts with diverse backgrounds in banking, fintech and technology. Key roles overseeing product, data, cybersecurity and technology have already been filled.

Anthony Tan, group CEO and co-founder of Grab, said: “With Grab and Singtel’s combined experience in meeting the everyday needs of Singaporeans, as well as our deep tech expertise and data-driven insights, the digital bank will further our goal to empower more people to gain better control of their money and achieve better economic outcomes for themselves, their businesses and families.”

Meanwhile, Yuen Kuan Moon, Singtel’s group CEO-designate, said with Grab and Singtel’s combined digital expertise and customer knowledge, the consortium has the assets and the synergies to make banking more accessible and intuitive, to deliver much-needed product simplicity, speed and affordability to consumers and enterprises.

 “As a homegrown company, we look forward to contributing to this exciting digital era of finance for Singapore that will drive greater value creation, build new careers and develop a strong Singaporean core of fintech talent for the industry,” Yuen added.

Other than the Grab-Singtel consortium, MAS has also awarded the digital full bank licence to an entity wholly-owned by local tech company Sea. MAS has also granted its digital wholesale bank licence to another consortium comprising Greenland Financial, Linklogis Hong Kong, and Beijing Co-operative Equity Investment Fund Management, as well as an entity wholly-owned by Ant Group, an affiliate company of Alibaba Group.

Digital full banks will be provide a wide range of financial services and take deposits from retail customers, while digital wholesale banks will focus on serving SMEs and other non-retail segments.

According to MAS, there were a total of 14 eligible applications vying for the licence. The applications were assessed on the following criteria: value proposition of business model, incorporating innovative use of technology to serve customer needs and reach under-served segments; the ability to manage a prudent and sustainable digital banking business; and growth prospects and other contributions to Singapore’s financial centre.

MAS also took into consideration the eligible applicants’ reviews of the business plans and assumptions underpinning their financial projections arising from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

MAS said in a press release, that the two entities selected for digital full bank licences were “clearly stronger” than the other eligible applicants. As for the two entities awarded with the digital wholesale bank licence, they were said to have met MAS’ expectations and were assessed to be demonstrably stronger across the criteria, notwithstanding the general high quality of the eligible applicants. It is added that as the digital wholesale bank licences are introduced as a pilot, MAS will review whether to grant more of such licences in the future.

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