Grab Looks to Acquire Singapore Banking License, Aims to Become Regional Fintech Powerhouse

Grab, the Southeast Asian unicorn app that has since expanded from its initial ride-hailing service to also include food delivery and financial services is seeking to apply for one of the five digital banking licenses that Singapore’s Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) is currently issuing, as reported.

It is understood that Grab Financial Group, which is Grab’s financial services division and one of the main drivers of growth for the unicorn, will look to apply for a full banking license from Singapore, which will enable it to provide more diversified financial services for its users and open up new avenues of growth for the company.

The Singapore reserve bank is currently issuing five digital banking licenses with the aim of accelerating the sovereign island city-state’s banking sector and industry, three of which are wholesale banking licenses while the other two are full banking licenses.

Reuben Lai, who is head of Grab Financial Group, said that the unicorn is looking to apply for the online banking license from Singapore’s reserve bank before the 31st of December 2019, which is the deadline for the digital banking license’s application. Lai also confirmed that Grab is looking to apply for a full banking license. If successful, the full banking license will enable the multi-faceted unicorn company to further expand on its financial offerings, such as granting its users and businesses access to important financial services such as lending and deposits on its platform. The acquisition of a full banking license will, according to Reuben Lai, enable the unicorn to further strengthen its foothold in Southeast Asia as one of the region’s preeminent fintech ecosystems.

Elaborating further on the digital banking license, Reuben noted that one of the goals that the unicorn company hopes to achieve with the license is to make it easier for their users and businesses to access vital financial services and to make their services and processes more transparent.

They want to enable their users and businesses in Singapore to enjoy a fluid, uncomplicated and streamlined banking experience that is easy to understand and without hidden charges and fees. Crucially, the full digital banking license will enable Grab to serve both non-retail and retail customers, such as taking deposits from them besides providing a broad range of other financial services.

The unicorn startup won’t be the only firm looking to acquire the much-coveted banking license. Singtel, one of the four major telecommunications service providers operating in Singapore, is reportedly also interested in applying for the license.

FOMO Pay, a Singapore-headquartered one-stop mobile payment processing solution platform, has also expressed interest in applying for a license as well. According to news sources, global and multinational fintech companies and corporations along with overseas banks are also expected to apply for digital banking licenses through joint ventures.

Another unicorn, high-end gaming hardware company Razer, is seriously considering applying for the online banking license. MAS is expected to make an announcement regarding the successful applicants sometime in mid-2020, with successful applicants being able to commence business by mid-2021. If the unicorn Grab manages to secure a full digital banking license, the company certainly has the potential and means to disrupt Singapore’s banking industry and become a regional fintech powerhouse.

Update: Singtel has partnered with Grab to make a bid for the digital full bank license together, which if successful will see the ride-hailing firm hold a 60 percent stake in the consortium while Singtel will hold the remaining 40 percent. If successful, the digital full bank license will allow Grab and Singtel to serve retail customers, including taking deposits and enabling them to lend money to companies.

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