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Grab and Singtel partner to apply for digital banking licence in Singapore

David Murphy
San Marina Bay in Singapore
If their application is successful, the two companies hope to offer a range of digital banking services to customers in Singapore

Southeast Asian ‘super app’ Grab  and Asian telco Singtel are forming a consortium to apply for a digital full bank licence in Singapore. Grab will have a 60 per cent stake in the entity, with Singtel holding the remaining 40 per cent.

The companies said they are committed to delivering a differentiated offering that addresses the unmet and underserved needs of consumer and enterprise segments in Singapore. The digital bank will aim to cater to the needs of digital-first consumers, who have come to expect greater convenience and personalisation, and SMEs who cite lack of access to credit as a key pain point.

“The core of Grab’s mission has always been to solve everyday challenges and unlock economic potential in Southeast Asia,” said Reuben Lai, senior managing director, Grab Financial Group. “In the past two years, we have launched and scaled financial services such as e-money, lending and insurance distribution into Southeast Asia’s largest fintech ecosystem. The natural next step is to build a truly customer-centric digital bank that will deliver a variety of banking and financial services that are accessible, transparent and affordable. We are excited to partner with Singtel, a well-respected brand in Singapore and the region, to provide a more bespoke service experience that will empower our users to save more, grow their wealth and transact seamlessly.”

Arthur Lang, CEO of Singtel’s International Group, said that Singtel was excited by the opportunity to move into the digital banking space, which is a natural extension of the mobile financial services that it is already offering to its customers. “Just as we’ve been building an ecosystem of digital services to improve the way customers live, work and play, we want to fundamentally change the way consumers and enterprises bank,” he said. “Together with Grab, which has extensive digital expertise and experience in this region, we have a formidable set of assets and significant synergies to make banking more accessible and intuitive, and deliver much-needed product simplicity, speed and affordability.”

Grab has grown beyond its ride-hailing roots. Since first introducing the GrabPay wallet in 2016 and launching Grab Financial Group in 2018, it has built solutions in payments, rewards, lending and insurance. The company said this experience has allowed it to better understand the needs of the unbanked and underbanked segments of Southeast Asia, and offer them innovative services that accelerate financial inclusion.

Singtel has also been innovating its core telco business and developing new businesses in areas such as cyber security and digital marketing which it said will add value to the digital bank.