The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), the country’s central bank, has provided the licence to operate a digital bank in the city-state to four applicants.

MAS has given full virtual banking licences to a Grab-Singtel consortium and tech giant Sea.

It has awarded a digital wholesale bank (DWB) licence to China’s Alibaba-backed Ant Group.

The same licence has also been given to a coalition between Greenland Financial Holdings Group, Linklogis Hong Kong, and Beijing Co-operative Equity Investment Fund Management.

The banking watchdog said that these digital banks are anticipated to start operating from early 2022.

The DWBs will initially launch as a pilot, MAS said, adding that it may be open up the market for more applicants later.

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MAS MD Ravi Menon said: “MAS applied a rigorous, merit-based process to select a strong slate of digital banks.

“We expect them to thrive alongside the incumbent banks and raise the industry’s bar in delivering quality financial services, particularly for currently underserved businesses and individuals.

“They will further strengthen Singapore’s financial sector for the digital economy of the future.”

Back in June 2020, MAS shortlisted 14 applications out of the 21 submitted to issue up to five digital banking licences.

There were five digital retail bank applicants and nine DWB applicants.

MAS was willing to offer two licences for full digital retail banks and three DWB licences.

Gaming group Razer – which applied for the licence under the brand name Razer Youth Bank, was among those that were not awarded the licence.

In a statement, Razer said: “We intend to roll out Razer Youth Bank where Razer and Razer Fintech have already established a strong user base and local business presence, be it in regional countries such as Malaysia and the Philippines where digital banking application processes are expected to kickstart in the near term or other regions, such as Europe, Middle East or Latin America where regulators are similarly supportive of innovation in the banking sector to better serve the unbanked and underserved segments of the economy.”