PETALING JAYA: Following the recent award of digital banking licences to companies in closest neighbour Singapore, interest in the local digital banking scene has been gaining traction.
Observers say like Singapore, the ability to bring in technology including proven digital straight through processing or STP in order to drive efficiency in the banking sector will be a crucial determinant in the dishing out of the licences.
“Bank Negara hopes that new players can apply big data and artificial intelligence to better improve risk management and productivity, ” one seasoned industry observer told StarBiz.
However, unlike in Singapore where the licences were given mostly to huge firms with large ready customer bases, he believes the future winners of these digital bank licences in Malaysia may not necessarily be of the same size.
“I don’t think the future winners of digital bank licences in Malaysia will comprise mainly of big boys with large customer bases.
“If you look at Singapore’s Monetary of Singapore’s concept paper, it has strong emphasis on confining the onboarding of customers within their ecosystem during the probationary period.
“This is to control and contain a potential blow-up of a digital bank failure, it is a control testing environment approach, “ he said.
“However, if you study Bank Negara’s concept paper, the emphasis is a little different.
“The focus on bringing financial services to the un-served and underserved is very crucial here, ” he added.
He said giving licences to only big players with large databases will serve to merely create more choices for existing banking customers but will not take banking services to businesses or farmers located in small towns, like Bidor or Batu Gajah in Perak.
However, he pointed out that the concept paper by Bank Negara also stressed that partnership with a financial institution was a positive point of consideration.
“One thing for sure, preference will be given to more established sponsors including some partnership banks.
“The recent failure of digital banks in Australia such as Xinja Holdings Ltd and those in the UK which were without a strong anchor sponsor, has reinforced fears that this could happen here, ” the observer added.
Bank Negara was reported earlier this month to be in the last stages of coming up with the digital banking framework.
The central bank is expected to award up to five digital banking licences.
It was initially anticipated that this would happen earlier.
Among the parties that have expressed interest in obtaining such licences here are tech firms Grab Holdings Inc and Razer Inc, telecommunications group Axiata Group Bhd, property firm Paramount Corp Bhd, US-founded financial start-up MoneyLion Inc and integrated tech firm Green Packet Bhd.
In the case of Paramount, it is understood that the group is in the process of engaging a consultant to conduct a feasibility study on this with a view of applying for the licence when the time comes.
Digital banking – banks without any physical presence whatsoever – is picking up in this region even as lenders face slower growth in loan volumes and top-line revenues amid saturated markets.
Before recent entrants Singapore and Hong Kong – India, China, South Korea and Japan had already ventured into the digital banking model.
Japan, for instance, went for the zero branch strategy as far back as the 1990s with the setting up of Japan Net Bank.
There have been other Internet banks there since then such as Seven Bank which has been providing financial services via ATMs across 7-Eleven convenience shops in Japan since the early 2000s.
In Singapore, the licences were recently awarded to the Grab-Singtel consortium, tech group Sea, Ant Group as well as a consortium made up of Greenland Financial Holdings, Linklogis Hong Kong and Beijing Co-operative Equity Investment Fund Management.
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