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The Digital Banking Race in Asia

The highly respected financial regulator of the city-state Singapore, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has last December awarded four digital banking licenses. These licenses will allow entities including non-bank entities to provide banking services including deposit taking and lending in Singapore. As a regional fintech powerhouse, the liberalisation of its banking industry has been hotly anticipated by big players in the world of finance and technology.

Two of the licenses are categorized as “full”, in that they allow consumer banking. One has gone to a partnership of local ride-hailing super-app Grab and telco conglomerate SingTel, where both companies have large customer bases and regional activities across Southeast Asia.

The other has gone to Nasdaq-listed internet powerhouse Sea group, which has had a blockbuster year of growth from its e-commerce platform Shopee (well able to hold its own against Amazon and Alibaba), it’s gaming division Garena and existing fintech division SeaMoney.

The remaining two are “wholesale”, or business banking licenses, awarded to Ant Financial (the fintech affiliate company of Alibaba Group, best known for their Alipay app) and another to a consortium of Greenland Financial, Linklogis & Beijing Co-Op Equity Investment.

Singapore follows a wider regional pattern, two years after the Hong Kong Monetary Authority who released eight digital banking licenses. Taiwan’s Financial Supervisory Commission also released three and Malaysia is expected to issue up to five sometime later this year. The Philippines has also indicated it will accept applications for online only banks. The authorities in Indonesia however, seeking to encourage consolidation of a fragmented banking sector, is not expected to issue any further licenses. However numerous small or struggling local lenders have been acquisition targets for ambitious Fintechs, while larger banks are experimenting with digital-only propositions.

However, they face a challenging marketplace in Singapore, where incumbents are deemed to be very digitally capable. Covid-19 forced them to bolster their digital proposition, and at the retail level almost all transactions, including account openings, can be performed online. DBS, the market leader, has won various accolades as the World’s Best Digital Bank, boasts over 7,500 engineers, with the CEO Piyush Gupta evangelizing the bank as a tech company in financial services.

The experience in Hong Kong and Australia seems to point that new entrants cannot only rely on a slicker app experience and marginally better deposit rates. They will need to tie in truly innovative products, services and integrations that are useful and targeted specifically at under-served sectors of the market.

In order to achieve this, new digital banks will have to have a robust, agile and secure technology stack incorporating the best technology partners in the game – and this is where the Irish Advantage is. Irish companies are already supporting many of the world’s most innovative digital banks and look poised to power the current wave of upstarts in Asia.

The Irish Capability

Daon is a world-leading mobile authentication and biometrics company. Established 20 years ago to serve the government sector and now a leader in financial services, they are one of the only FIDO certified biometrics companies, whose services are critical to the security of any digital banking offering. Daon are already working with some of the leading financial digital banks in the region – TONIK (the Philippines) and Mox (Hong Kong).

A comprehensive compliance offering, and seamless onboarding process, is central to offering customers an exceptional  and secure account opening experience. KnowYourCustomer’s KYC, KYB and onboarding platform is currently used by digital bank Neat in Hong Kong.  Know Your Customer notably won “Best Solution – Customer Onboarding” in the 2020 edition of the Regulation Asia Awards of Excellence.

Also in the onboarding space is Fenergo, the industry No.1 provider of Client Lifecycle Management (CLM) software solutions for financial institutions spanning capital markets and investment banking, commercial, business and retail banking, private banking and wealth management, and asset management. Fenergo CLM is an end-to-end platform that transforms how sell-side banks and buy-side firms manage clients – from initial onboarding to KYC/AML compliance, to client data management and ongoing lifecycle KYC reviews and refreshes.

With the uptake of digital banking solutions expected to experience exponential growth, Leveris’ cloud-native and real-time core banking system offers a 100% turnkey digital bank solution. A modular platform designed with scalability and reliability at its heart, Leveris helps fulfil ultra-rapid total deployment for innovative technology-driven banking solutions, digital at heart.

CR2 solutions provide innovative omnichannel banking software to banks across the world. CR2 makes self-servicing banking better through supplying ATM’s to mobile and from POS to the Internet. CR2 offer digital channels that provide personalised services built upon an integrated self-service digital banking platform known as ‘BankWorld’.

With compliance core to the reassurance needed to drive adoption of digital banking, Solgari’s omni-channel cloud communications platform provides communications and functionality through Microsoft Dynamics 365 within the CRM interface.

As Singapore embarks on its journey into digital banking, there is much to be learned and gained from the experience of companies who have helped other organizations venture into this space. A global technology hotspot, eight of the top 10 global software companies have their European headquarters in Ireland, making this a hotbed of innovation; innovation that empowers and enables.

To find out more about the #IrishAdvantage in Fintech, please reach out to talk.

Authors

Tiarnan McCaughan – Senior Market Advisor Fintech & Financial Services, Southeast Asia

tiarnan.mccaughan@enterprise-ireland.com

Grace Odlum – Market Executive, Southeast Asia

grace.odlum@enterprise-ireland.com

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