Standard Chartered eyes digital bank market with Singapore joint venture

StanChart inks agreement with NTUC Enterprise to set up a joint venture offering digital banking services, making Singapore the second Asian market after Hong Kong plans to offer such services.

Standard Chartered (StanChart) has inked an agreement with NTUC Enterprise to set up a joint venture in Singapore offering digital banking services. The move follows a similar deal in Hong Kong, where the bank introduced its first digital bank in the region last year. 

StanChart said it would own 60% of the joint venture SC Bank Solutions, worth SG$144 million ($107.3 million), while NTUC's subsidiary BetaPlus would hold the remaining 40% share at SG$96 million ($71.53 million). 

"The joint venture will focus on providing digital banking services, in line with Singapore's efforts to digitalise its economy," StanChart said, adding that it secured a full banking licence last December from the local industry regulator, Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). 

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The move marks  StanChart's second licensed virtual bank in the region, where it launched Mox Bank in Hong Kong last September through a joint venture with local partners PCCW, HKT, and Trip.com. 

According to MAS' website, SC Bank Solutions is headed by CEO Dwaipayan Sadhu. 

StanChart last December also launched a training lab in Singapore, with plans to train 8,000 of its employees here in digital skillsets, including data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and blockchain, by 2022. The training facility was a follow-up on the bank's plans to invest SG$5 million ($3.74 million) to enhance its local skillsets and drive its digitalisation and business growth plans. 

Singapore in December 2020 issued four digital bank licences, from a shortlist of 14 applicants, with Alibaba's Ant Group, joint bidders Singtel and Grab. Internet services company Sea each securing a licence. They are expected to begin operations from early next year. 

The consortium comprising Grab and Singtel, and Sea have been issued digital full bank licences. Ant and another consortium comprising Greenland Financial Holdings, Linklogis Hong Kong, and Beijing Co-operative Equity Investment Fund Management have been given digital wholesale bank licences. 

Full bank licensees would be allowed to offer financial services and take deposits from retail customers. In contrast, wholesale bank licensees would serve small and midsize businesses (SMBs) and other non-retail segments. Only companies headquartered in Singapore and controlled by Singaporeans were eligible to apply for digital full bank licenses. Foreign companies keen to join the ranks had to form a joint venture with a local company, with the joint venture entity headquartered in Singapore and controlled by Singaporeans. 

In a statement last month, StanChart said it established a joint venture with supply chain finance tech vendor, Linklogis, to offer a digital trade finance and distribution platform. Called Olea, the joint venture is based in Singapore and provides a risk analytics platform that is touted to enable investors to assess options against their risk profile. 

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