Ant Financial has applied for a digital banking license as the Chinese electronic payments company continues its push into overseas markets.
Ant cited its “commitment to promoting financial inclusion globally” in confirming that it had submitted an application to the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).
“We look forward to contributing to the development of the digital banking landscape in Singapore,” a spokesperson said.
The fintech affiliate of e-commerce giant Alibaba joined two other groups that submitted bids for a digital banking license to the MAS by Thursday’s deadline. Gaming company Razer is leading one consortium while Singapore Telecommunications and Southeast Asian ride hailing firm Grab have also teamed up.
A successful application would give Ant access to a digital lending market that Singapore is opening up. The company previously obtained a license in Hong Kong and has also been expanding into several other Asian markets including the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam, where it acquired a stake in e-wallet eMonkey.
Southeast Asia’s digital lending market as a whole is expected to more than quadruple to US$110 billion by 2025, according to a report by Bain & Co., Google and Temasek Holdings Pte.
The MAS is offering two types of licenses — one for full digital banking, which would allow the licensee to serve all kinds of customers but would require S$1.5 billion (US$1.1 billion) in capital as well as local control. Ant is applying for a wholesale license, which would allow it to serve corporate customers, hold a majority stake and commit only S$100 million (US$74 million) in capital.
Singapore is scheduled to announce the bidding winners in mid-2020 and the digital banks are expected to start operations in a phased manner from mid-2021.
Ant, which was spun off from Alibaba in 2014, has been shifting away from consumer finance in China amid increased regulatory scrutiny of financial firms. It is aiming to reach 2 billion consumers globally with its payments network in coming years.