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Ant Group's digital bank makes Singapore debut with focus on SMBs

Announcing its soft launch, Ant's ANEXT Bank says it will focus on serving the small and midsize business market and has inked a two-year partnership with B2B online marketplace network, Proxtera, to facilitate cross-border trade.
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Written by Eileen Yu, Contributor on

ANEXT Bank has made its debut in Singapore with a soft launch, unveiling its plans to focus on the small and midsize business (SMB) market. It inks a two-year partnership with online marketplace network, Proxtera, to facilitate cross-border trade amongst businesses in the market segment. 

ANEXT said Monday it would offer digital financial services to micro enterprises and SMBs in Singapore and the region, in particular, those that needed cross-border support for their global expansion. It offered a preview of its dual-currency deposit account service, which it said was secured with its proprietary technologies such as three-factor authentication verification, and embedded with features such as remote onboarding and daily interest.

The digital bank is a subsidiary of Ant Group, which is Alibaba Group's fintech business and one of four successful bidders that snagged a digital wholesale bank licence in Singapore. The licence category allows the bank to serve the SMB and other non-retail market segments, while full bank licensees are able to offer financial services and take deposits from retail customers. 

The licences were awarded in December 2020, though, ANEXT was approved to commence business from June 2 this year. 

ANEXT Bank CEO Toh Su Mei said: "It's time to offer the next generation of financial services that are accessible and effortless for growing businesses. Amidst rapid acceleration in the digital economy, business models are changing and pivoting to become digital-first, if not adopting a hybrid model. Financial services have to evolve and be where SMBs are doing their businesses digitally."

Toh said the bank was able to tap Ant's technologies and expertise to support the SMB segment.

ANEXT said its collaboration with Proxtera also would see both partners jointly develop an "open framework" for participating financial institutions to provide financing and risk mitigation services to the SMB market. It added that it was the first digital wholesale bank in Singapore to join the Proxtera network. 

Launched in 2020, Proxtera is an online B2B marketplace that facilitates cross-border trade between SMBs with financing and fulfilment services. It was jointly developed as an initiative by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) to drive digital and financial inclusivity for SMBs. 

Proxtera currently is live with 18 platforms across Asia and Africa, supporting up to 400,000 SMBs on the network. 

Proxtera CEO Saurav Bhattacharyya said: "Seamless access and availability of trade financing solutions will help amplify business growth and accelerate expansion for SMBs, [which] is closely aligned with ANEXT Bank's focus to serve SMBs engaging in cross-border operations. Together with ANEXT Bank's digital-born identity and digital-first capabilities and services, I'm confident that we can make trade easier, more seamless, and efficient for SMBs." 

Joint bidders Grab and Singtel and internet services company Sea hold digital full bank licences, while a consortium comprising Greenland Financial Holdings, Linklogis Hong Kong, and Beijing Co-operative Equity Investment Fund Management has the other digital wholesale bank licence. 

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