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FINTECH

Singapore’s digital banks reach start line

The launch of new digital banks backed by Standard Chartered, FairPrice, Grab and Singtel comes at an interesting time. Both emerge into a very different world than the one in which they applied for licences. Success will rest upon exploiting the ecosystems of their founders.

Charles-Wong-GXS-960.jpg
Charles Wong, GXS

The launch of two digital banks in Singapore on consecutive days offered a chance to assess the strategy of new entrants into an already crowded market. The short answer: ecosystem and brand are everything.

On August 31, GXS, the digital bank backed by southeast Asian super app Grab and incumbent telco Singtel, was the first to announce its plans (but not actually launch – that will happen on September 5). Two wholesale digital banks, Ant Group-backed Anext Bank and Greenland Group-backed Green Link Digital Bank, both commenced operations in June, serving small and medium-sized enterprises.

We are a bank born by digital natives for digital natives
Charles Wong, GXS

Held on the top floor of Grab’s funky urban headquarters in Singapore’s One-North, home to all of Singapore’s coolest businesses as well as a Lucasfilm building styled after the Star Wars Sandcrawler, GXS’s event brought an emphasis on Generation Z-branded style.

Charles Wong, the former Citibanker who is chief executive of GXS, described it as “a homegrown bank on a mission to support the needs of the entrepreneurs, gig economy workers and early-jobbers in our community”.

“We