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Grab-Singtel group to hire 200 people for Singapore digital bank

·3-min read
Charles Wong, CEO of Grab-Singtel digital banking consortium. (PHOTO: Grab-Singtel consortium)
Charles Wong, CEO of Grab-Singtel digital banking consortium. (PHOTO: Grab-Singtel consortium)

By Yoolim Lee

(Bloomberg) -- A Grab Holdings Inc.-Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. venture, one of two successful bidders for a digital full bank license in the city state, will hire 200 people before the virtual lender’s launch in early 2022.

The new entity seeks to recruit veteran bankers, and will have positions available in technology and financial technology, Charles Wong, who will lead the bank as chief executive officer, said in a virtual briefing Friday night. The lender has recruited 10% to 15% of its planned workforce so far, he said.

Grab, which owns 60% of the venture, has won approval to begin offering a full range of digital banking services to local consumers, a milestone for the affluent city and an advance in the car-hailing startup’s efforts to break into the realm of fintech.

“There is no other platform in Singapore that delivers daily essential services to the lives of our customers, multiple times a week,” said Reuben Lai, senior managing director of Grab Financial Group, Grab’s fintech arm. “That gives us a touch-point that enables us to embed financial services.”

Singtel, which provides mobile, fibre broadband and TV services and is 52% owned by Temasek Holdings Pte, holds the remaining 40% of the venture. Tencent Holdings Ltd.-backed Sea Ltd. was the other successful bidder for the full digital banking license announced on Friday.

Four Winners

Name

Digital Bank Category

Grab-Singtel

Full

Sea entity

Full

Greenland Financial consortium

Wholesale

Ant-owned entity

Wholesale

The granting of the license boosts the companies’ ambition of offering online finance services to their millions of customers. SoftBank Group Corp.-backed Grab is one of a plethora of tech firms now hoping to benefit from their user bases and in-app payment operations through the potentially lucrative market of online lending and investing.

Jack Ma’s Ant Group Co., and a consortium involving China’s Greenland Financial Holdings Group Co. were awarded the so-called digital wholesale banking licenses.

Digital full banks will be allowed to take deposits and provide banking services to both retail and corporate customers. Digital wholesale banks can only target small and medium-sized businesses and other non-consumer segments.

Sea shares climbed 8.3% to $198.78 in New York on Friday, their biggest gain in almost four months. The company is worth about $90 billion and is the most valuable in Southeast Asia.

Sea will aim to address the financial needs of young customers and small companies in Singapore, CEO Forrest Li said in a statement.

Under criteria set by the Monetary Authority of Singapore, digital full banks are required to have total capital of at least S$1.5 billion ($1.1 billion), with S$15 million at entry and progressively increasing the capital.

Total Capital

Arthur Lang, CEO of Singtel’s international group, said the Grab-Singtel digital bank would need total capital of S$100 million for the first two years before progressively increasing the amount.

“Clearly we are very committed to the entire amount of capital, but it is phased out over a period of time,” he said in the virtual briefing. “The focus is to build this bank and run it profitably and sustainably.”

The MAS announcement comes days before the government kicks off Singapore Fintech Festival x SWITCH, one of the year’s biggest state-sponsored conferences and intended to showcase the island’s achievements in the burgeoning fields.

“This is not a fly-by-night relationship with customers both Grab and Singtel have,” Lang said. “We are here to build something very special.”

--With assistance from Chanyaporn Chanjaroen.

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P.