Ant Group “Soft Launches” Singapore Digital Bank

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Ant Group has “soft launched” its Singapore digital bank, dubbed ANEXT Bank.

The Chinese technology giant Ant Group has soft launched its Singapore digital wholesale bank Monday, after receiving approval from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), the city-state’s central bank, last week. The digital bank, ANEXT Bank, will provide digital financial services to local and regional micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), with a focus on cross-border operations, the company said in a press release.

As part of the launch, ANEXT Bank previewed its ANEXT Business Account, a dual-currency deposit account with three-factor authentication verification, remote onboarding and daily interest, the release said. The bank is accepting registrations of interest on the website, with the business account available to the broader SME community starting from the third quarter of this year, the release said. A cursory search of the website by found a contact form saying ANEXT Bank would update applicants when services are launched.

Keeping Sector Competitive

The launch follows hard on the heels of Green Link Digital Bank (GLDB)’s announcement Friday it was opening up shop for its own wholesale digital bank.

Sopnendu Mohanty, chief fintech officer at MAS, said the innovation and features the digital banks will provide will keep the city-state’s banking sector competitive and growing.

“MAS expects the digital banks to thrive and synergise with our dynamic financial institutions and raise the bar in delivering quality financial services, and to uplift Singapore’s financial sector to better support the growth of SMEs in Singapore, the region and in emerging markets,” Mohanty said in the statement.

In December 2020, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) awarded four digital banking licenses.

Digital Bank Licenses

A consortium comprising Grab and Singtel, and an entity wholly owned by Sea were awarded digital full bank (DFB) licenses, while the wholesale bank license winners were a consortium including Greenland Financial Holdings and Linklogis Hong Kong, and an entity wholly owned by Ant Group.

In Singapore, digital full banks are allowed to take deposits from retail customers, while digital wholesale banks can cater to the monetary needs of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

ANEXT Bank also signed a two-year memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Proxtera, an entity with both public and private support, including from the MAS, Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and from private-sector groups, the release said.

Cross-Border Banking

Under the MOU, ANEXT and Proxtera will created an open framework for financial institutions for providing financing for SMEs and platforms in global trades, the release said.

Saurav Bhattacharyya, CEO of Proxtera, said his company aimed to simplify global trade for SMEs and to improve access to digital services.

“Seamless access and availability of trade financing solutions will help amplify business growth and accelerate expansion for SMEs. This mission is closely aligned with ANEXT Bank’s focus to serve SMEs engaging in cross-border operations,” he said in the statement.

The MAS had originally expected operations at the digital banks to start early this year. The Grab-Singtel consortium, called GXS Bank, is targeting a launch in the second half of this year.