SINGAPORE: A consortium set up by ride-hailing giant Grab and local telco Singtel plans to hire around 200 people in Singapore by the end of next year to build its digital bank.
The consortium was one of two applicants to win a digital full bank licence in Singapore, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) announced on Friday (Dec 4), allowing it to serve retail customers.
Hiring has already begun, with 10 to 15 per cent of the roles filled so far, said the consortium's newly appointed CEO, Mr Charles Wong, at an online press conference. These include key roles overseeing product, data and cybersecurity.
The consortium is still looking to fill more roles in the areas of technology, risk, finance and compliance, said Mr Wong.
“We hope to continue to create jobs in the technology and the fintech sectors for Singaporeans, continue to build on the training programs to ensure that Singaporeans are future-ready across data, cybersecurity, as well as technology,” he said.
READ: Grab-Singtel venture, Jack Ma's Ant Group, tech firm Sea among those issued digital bank licences in Singapore
MAKE BANKING AS EASY AS "ORDERING GRAB FOOD"
Grab has a 60 per cent stake in the consortium, with Singtel owning the rest.
The companies said in a joint press release on Friday that their priority is “to create the most seamless and secure digital banking experience” in Singapore.
They noted that this is “a critical time” when more people and businesses are going online, yet a 2019 research showed 40 per cent of Singapore residents being under-banked.
As such, the consortium will focus on serving consumers and small businesses, they said in the release.
These include young people in professional, manager, executive and technician (PMET) roles, gig workers with flexible income, and micro-small and medium enterprises (SMEs) who face limited access to financing, they said.
The consortium will be able to help the under-served access transparent financial services by drawing on the capabilities and expertise of both companies, they said.
“Our goal is to make banking and financial services as easy as ordering Grab food, booking a car ride or making a mobile phone call,” Grab Financial Group’s senior managing director Reuben Lai told reporters at the online press conference.
Asked about the types of services or products that its digital bank will roll out when it launches formally in early-2022, Mr Wong said it remains “too early” to comment.
“But we are definitely looking at innovative financial products and services that will be embedded into customers’ daily lives and activities,” he added.
ON INVESTMENTS AND COMPETITION
According to the central bank’s guidelines, holders of the digital full bank licences will need S$1.5 billion in minimum paid-up capital, be headquartered in Singapore and controlled by Singaporeans.
Mr Arthur Lang, CEO of Singtel’s International Group, said Grab and Singtel will be forking out the “proportional share” of this amount according to their stake holdings.
But due to the “phased approach” mapped out by the MAS for the licence holders of the digital full bank, the initial amount of capital to be committed in the short to medium term will likely be “modest”.
“Once we are able to show sustainable path to profitability, then we can add on more capital in year four, year five or even the subsequent years after that,” added Mr Lang.
Representatives from both Grab and Singtel also said that the industry is a “growing pie” with the COVID-19 pandemic having accelerated digital financial services.
Asked when it expects the digital bank to become profitable, Mr Lai replied: “When you look around the world, the largest cost that challenger banks typically incur is customer acquisition. The customers have been acquired in this case.”
“So from that perspective, it becomes extremely efficient … so we don't we don't expect this to be a long drawn affair.
Mr Lang echoed that, noting that both companies have their existing customer bases to tap on.
“The relationship that we have already is a strong one (and) an existing one. And on top of that, I think there is the level of trust,” he said.
“This would result in the ability to shift or to add on services that we already provide our customers, and financial services would be a relatively easy one and a seamless one to include.”
That said, the new player is going into the industry with “eyes wide open” given that the incumbent banks which have developed their respective digital capabilities are “strong”.
“We’re not going like the young start-ups in other countries where they say they are out there to bring down the incumbent banks,” said Mr Lang. “Absolutely not.”
“What we are focused on and this is very laser-focused both from Grab and Singtel’s perspective is let's just focus on our customers. What do we need to bring them joy? What do we need to really delight them and to really deliver something special,” he added.