Fintech giant Ant Group, controlled by Chinese billionaire Jack Ma, announced on Monday the launch of ANEXT Bank, a digital wholesale bank incorporated in Singapore.
The Monetary Authority of Singapore gave approval on June 2 to an application for the bank to commence business, Ant and wholly owned ANEXT said in a statement.
The move marks one of Ant’s biggest overseas pushes since its $37 billion initial public offering (IPO) was derailed by Chinese regulators in late 2020.
Ant obtained one of Singapore’s first digital wholesale banking licences at the end of 2020 allowing it to serve large clients, including financial institutions and corporations.
ANEXT To Focus On MSMEs
Ant, roughly 33% owned by e-commerce leader Alibaba Group Holding, said ANEXT’s focus was micro, small and mid-sized enterprises (MSMEs), particularly those with cross-border operations.
“This marks yet another milestone in Singapore’s digital bank development journey, a strategic effort to ensure the banking sector remains progressive, globally competitive and vibrant,” MAS chief fintech officer Sopnendu Mohanty said.
Technology firm Sea and a venture of ride-hailing and fintech firm Grab won “digital full bank” licences in 2020, allowing the Singaporean companies to directly take deposits and offer services locally to retail as well as corporate customers.
MAS has said it expects the pair to launch digital banks this year.
Helmed by banking veteran Toh Su Mei, ANEXT will develop an open framework for financial institutions in collaboration with Proxtera, a local entity initiated by MAS and Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority, the statement showed.
ANEXT Business Account will be available for SMEs from the third quarter this year, the companies said.
- Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard