Here Are All The Digital Banking Contenders in Malaysia (So Far)by Vincent Fong July 5, 2021 0 comments
Editor’s Note: This article was first written on 29th June 2021, was last updated at 11:00 am 5th August 2021 to include new developments.
With the deadline for Malaysia’s digital banking license application being less than a day away, a majority of the players are surprisingly still coy about confirming their status.
In markets like Hong Kong and Singapore who have similarly issued a digital banking framework, players were far more eager to thump their chest and publicise about how their spin on digital banking will reshape financial services.
With the exception of a few players, most of the digital banking aspirants are keeping their cards very close to their chest.
Perhaps they are media-shy or they have learned from their counterparts and wanted to spare themselves the trouble of explaining why they did not secure a license should their bid not be accepted by Bank Negara Malaysia.
Nevertheless, we imagine that there will be more announcements over the next few days and we will be updating the list as the story develops.
Here’s a list of aspirants we know so far:
AEON Credit – AEON Financial Service Co Ltd
AEON Credit confirmed on 30th June that it will bid for a digital banking license with its parent company AEON Financial Service Co Limited.
It will hold a 40% stake while its parent company will hold the remaining 60% in the consortium.
AEON Credit largely provides financial services to members of its retail chain in Malaysia.
Angkasa – Boustead Holdings
Angkatan Koperasi Kebangsaan Malaysia Berhad (Angkasa) and Boustead Holdings announced on 2nd July 2021 that it is throwing their hat into the digital banking ring.
During the initial foundation period, the consortium said it will focus on its captive market of 7 million people and at least 10,000 co-operatives, most which are in the unserved and underserved segments. They also revealed that currently processing RM 15 billion loan transactions per year.
Axiata & RHB Bank
Axiata and RHB confirmed earlier this month their bid for a digital banking license after months of rumours floating around.
The consortium will be led by Axiata with its subsidiary Boost Holdings owning 60% and RHB owning 40% of the digital banking consortium.
Boost Holdings houses all the digital financial services under Axiata Digital while RHB is one of Malaysia’s largest banks.
BigPay – MIDF – Ikhlas Capital
BigPay, who frequently describes itself as a fintech that is modeled after challenger banks like Monzo, is another contender in this race.
Salim Dhanani, CEO and Co-founder of BigPay told Fintech News Malaysia in an interview that they’ve been interested in the license since it was announced.
BigPay is backed by aviation group AirAsia who also has interests in the insurance business through its subsidiary Tune Insurance.
The company announced on 1st July 2021 that it is entering into a consortium with Malaysian financial institution MIDF and Ikhlas Capital, a Singapore-headquartered private equity fund manager.
Grab – Singtel and “Malaysian Investors”
Grab is a natural suspect to be in the digital banking race, having secured their license in Singapore, it seemed only natural for the super-app to also eye Malaysian markets.
Having raised US$ 300 million for its financial services arm Grab Financial Group, they certainly have the firepower to do so as well.
It’s also interesting to note that based on the last publicly available info, Maybank has a 30% indirect stake in GrabPay in Malaysia which was registered as GPay Network (M) Sdn Bhd.
Grab confirmed in a statement on 1st July that it is entering in a bid with Singtel and other Malaysian investors that have yet to be named.
GreenPacket – Zico – M24 Tawreeq
Led by well-known Malaysian tech entrepreneur CC Puan, the Bursa-listed GreenPacket announced its ambitions to secure a digital banking license in Malaysia.
The company said that it has acquired eKYC firm Xendity for US$ 10 million to strengthen its digital identity verification capabilities as it seeks to bid for the license.
Whether this will provide GreenPacket any added advantage is unclear as there are many competent eKYC solution providers that can provide a reasonably good digital identity solution without the need of acquiring a firm to bring the tech in-house.
GreenPacket also has several commercial relationships with internet giant Tencent which operates a digital bank in China called WeBank.
The firm’s previous foray in e-wallets through kiplePay has found very limited success.
GreenPacket confirmed on 30th June that it will enter into a consortium with Zico Holdings and M24 Tawreeq to bid for an Islamic digital banking license. Zico provides professional advisory services whereas M24 Tawreeq is involved with digital Islamic factoring.
iFast – Koperasi Angkatan Tentera Malaysia – THZ Alliance – 99 Speedmart – Yillion Group
Singapore’s wealth platform iFast has also announced its ambition for a digital bank through its Malaysian arm.
iFast’s previous bid for Singapore’s digital banking license alongside Chinese players Yillion Group and Hande Group was unsuccessful.
Alongside Rakuten Trade, they are currently the only two companies in Malaysia offering fully digital equity stockbroking service.
iFast announced on 30th June that it will be submitting a bid with three partners, army cooperative Koperasi Angkatan Tentera Malaysia, investment firm THZ Alliance, and Lee Thiam Wah, founder and major shareholder of 99 Speedmart.
Internationally, the iFAST Bank consortium comprises Yillion Fintech which provides the core digital banking technology and capabilities for Yillion Bank.
The wealthtech firm will own 40% of the stake in the digital bank. iFast affirmed that 57% of the stakes will be owned by Malaysians.
Homegrown remittance-focused fintech MoneyMatch announced their digital banking bid after raising RM 18 million from KAF Investment Bank. The company has not revealed the names of the rest of its consortium partners.
Founded in 2015 by former bankers Adrian Yap and Naysan Munusamy, MoneyMatch was amongst the first batch of fintech startups enrolled into Bank Negara Malaysia’s Financial Technology Regulatory Sandbox in 2017, and successfully graduated to become a full licensee under the Money Services Business Act in 2019.
ManagePay, a payments company with business interests in the lending segment, said in a Bursa filing on 1st July 2021 that they are bidding for the digital banking license with Trustgate Berhad, Crescent Capital Sdn. Bhd. and RichWorks International Sdn Bhd.
It is worth noting that ManagePay in recent years has been actively securing licenses to expand into various financial services including; e-money, P2P financing, and moneylending.
While its Group Managing Director said they are pursuing the digital banking license to offer a “complete suite of solutions”, they have found very little success in some of their recent ventures.
Both their e-wallet and P2P financing business are struggling to find a footing against their competitors.
Paramount – Star Media Group – RCE Capital
Paramount purchased a 30 percent stake in P2P financing platform Fundaztic in April, a strategic move likely aimed at boosting its chances of securing a digital banking license.
Fundaztic’s founder, Jeffrey Chew, is also Paramount’s CEO. An experienced banker, he was previously the CEO of OCBC Malaysia.
The parties confirmed yesterday that they are bidding for a license in a 5 party consortium which includes, Paramount Corporation, Star Media Group, RCE Capital, Prosper Palm Oil Mill and a “technology partner” that was unnamed.
Pertama Digital & Crowdo
Pertama Digital, a publicly listed Malaysian firm best known for providing consumer-to-government payments, first announced its bid for a digital banking license with Crowdo.
Fintech News Malaysia noted the strange choice in a consortium partner as Crowdo had very limited success within the Malaysian SME space through its equity crowdfunding operations.
They have since also announced a few more partnerships which include one with core-banking solution provider INFOPRO, though it is unclear to us if the partnership is really just a vendor-client relationship. If so, it hardly adds anything to bid since every consortium will engage a tech provider.
PUC – Sabah – Pahang
Publicly listed PUC Berhad, the e-commerce platform that was formerly known as 11street which has since been renamed Presto, presumably to streamline its brand identity with its e-wallet product Presto Wallet.
On the e-commerce front, it has struggled to find a footing against strong players like Lazada and Shopee and on the e-wallet front, having entered the game too late, it also struggled against its more established competitors.
Its Group Managing Director Cheong Chia Chou said in an interview that they are interested to participate in the digital banking business.
The company announced on 1st July 2021 that it will be bidding for the license with 2 state governments and a Malaysian conglomerate.
PUC revealed on 28th July 2021 that the two state governments involved in the bid are Sabah and Pahang, the name of the Malaysian conglomerate is still unconfirmed at the time of writing.
Sarawak – Kenanga Bank – Revenue Group
Sarawak confirmed that it will lead a consortium alongside Kenanga Bank and publicly listed payments operator Revenue Group to bid for a digital banking license.
The three entities formed a special purpose vehicle (SPV) for a consortium named SSG Digital Resources Berhad for this purpose.
Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Abang Openg first announced Sarawak’s digital banking ambitions in 2020.
Sunway – LinkLogis – Bangkok Bank
Sunway is practically a household name, the conglomerate has business interests spanning healthcare, property, retail, leisure among others.
On the financial services front, Sunway owns a 51% stake in Credit Bureau Malaysia and they are also involved with the remittance business through Sunway Money.
Sunway Berhad’s President, Dato’ Chew Chee Kin said in a press statement previously that their acquisition of stakes in Credit Bureau Malaysia will advance their ambition to secure a digital banking license.
Latest report from Reuters indicates that Sunway will enter into a consortium with Tencent-backed fintech firm LinkLogis and Bangkok Bank to bid for the license.
AMTD Group’s Chairman, Calvin Choi revealed in an interview that it was keen to seek a digital banking license in Malaysia.
The group successfully secured a license in Hong Kong to jointly set up Airstar Bank in Hong Kong with Xiaomi. They were however unsuccessful in their bid in Singapore with SP Group, Xiaomi and Funding Societies.
Bank Rakyat, an Islamic cooperative bank in Malaysia with assets totaling RM111.75 billion as of December 2020, was also reportedly eyeing a digital banking license as well.
They have declined media requests for comments. It is unclear if they are currently in talks with other partners to form a consortium.
CN Asia Corp
CN Asia Corp, an investment holding company with businesses primarily focused on industrial manufacturing said that it is intending to set up a digital bank catering to the needs of women. It is partnering with social enterprise Intcys to reportedly invest RM 400 million for its digital banking ambitions.
Via the proposed entity MyWeW (Women Empowering Women) digital bank, the group said it plans to offer financial services to underserved women in Malaysia.
The announcement was sparse on details about the degree of underserved women in Malaysia and how it plans to tackle it in a way that incumbent banks aren’t able to especially given the fact that the consortium lacks any real experience in this space.
ASEAN-focused P2P lender Funding Societies is also among the contenders who is interested to bid for a license in Malaysia.
Kelvin Teo, Group CEO and Co-Founder of Funding Societies said to Fintech News Malaysia that they are “excited by the opportunity” and having a digital bank will allow them to build on their position of being the “largest SME digital financing platform in South East Asia”.
Kelvin said that they have been seeking out partners to apply for the license.
Funding Societies previously entered into a bid for Singapore’s digital banking license unsuccessfully with AMTD Group, SP Group, and Xiaomi.
Genting Group Berhad
Genting Group Berhad is also rumoured to be applying for a digital banking license though details are sparse and they have declined to respond to media requests for comments.
The group is a Malaysian conglomerate with business interests spanning across hospitality, property, plantations, energy and more. Though they are best known for the casino business.
The Johor Chief Minister Datuk Haji Hasni Mohamad announced that the state government intends to launch a digital bank.
The Chief Minister further stated that the establishment of a digital bank will create a more inclusive financial ecosystem for its citizens. He further noted the growth potential of digital banks and the fintech sector and added that the state government should seize the opportunity.
A US-based fintech company, MoneyLion is seeking to leverage its experience in the US as a challenger bank to provide similar digital banking services in Malaysia. The company is set to go public through a merger with SPAC Fusion Acquisition Corp, giving it additional capital firepower to grow its digital banking ambitions.
Unknown to many outside the fintech circle, one of MoneyLion’s co-founders, Chee Mun Foong is Malaysian and he leads the technology team out of Kuala Lumpur.
Gaming giant backed Razer Fintech, who was unsuccessful in its bid to secure a digital banking license in Singapore, said that it will be turning its attention to Malaysia and the Philippines for its digital banking ambitions.
Razer Fintech’s CEO, Lee Li Meng said while they were hoping to start their journey in Singapore, their strategy of extending Razer Fintech’s business into digital banking remains unchanged.
Former UOB veteran Eduard Fabian, who was previously hired as Razer Fintech’s CTO presumably to lead the tech team for the digital banking unit, has since left the organisation to pursue a CIO role in Chubb Insurance.
Sea Group & YTL Berhad
Sea Group is reportedly bidding for a digital banking license with Malaysian conglomerate YTL Group. Sea Group successfully secured a digital banking license in Singapore and their fintech interests in Malaysia include ShopeePay and SPayLater.
Meanwhile, YTL Berhad, is a Malaysian conglomerate with business interests spanning across hospitality, property, technology, and more.
Industry sources indicate that the consortium will likely be led by Sea Group.
No longer bidding
CIMB’s Touch ‘n Go Group
Touch ‘n Go Group is probably best known for its pre-paid cards which are primarily used for transportation in Malaysia.
It is a subsidiary of CIMB Group, one of Malaysia’s largest banks. As part of its modernisation efforts, Touch ‘n Go Group entered into a joint venture with Ant Group to launch TNG eWallet.
While they have not formally announced a bid, Effendy Shahul who is both the CEO for Touch ‘n Go Group and CIMB Digital Assets, told Fintech News Malaysia in an interview that they are interested to join a digital banking consortium and they do not have to be the controlling majority.
It is interesting to note that Ant Group holds a digital banking license in both Hong Kong and Singapore, while CIMB operates digital-only banks in the Philippines and Vietnam which are led by Effendy’s team.
Fintech News Malaysia reached out to Touch ‘n Go Group, to confirm the status of the application, Effendy responded,
“We have not made an application, but we will continue to watch the developments closely.”
Since Bank Negara Malaysia’s deadline was 30th June 2021, we can safely conclude Touch n’ Go is no longer part of the bidding war. Effendy added in his statement.
“We believe that equity or commercial partnership opportunities will continue to present themselves as the application process takes its course, and we will evaluate those as they come.”
MyMy and Sukaniaga
Founded by Joe Mcguire and Kishore Samuel, MyMy announced their bid for a digital banking license with Sukaniaga, a solutions provider in the digital loans space.
MyMy previously raised Malaysia’s largest fintech seed round of RM 12 million led by Malaysia’s army cooperative Koperasi Angkatan Tentera Malaysia Berhad.
The duo said it is aiming to be “Malaysia’s first unicorn and a shariah-compliant digital bank.”
Fintech News Malaysia was informed by MyMy that they are no longer keen to pursue the digital banking license, instead, they will shift their focus building upon the e-money license they’ve previously secured.
Interestingly its largest investor from their seed round Koperasi Angkatan Tentera Malaysia Berhad has entered into the race with the iFast-led consortium.
TymeBank is a South African digital bank backed by JG Summit, one of the biggest conglomerates in the Philippines. In February, it raised US$109 million in fresh funding from British and Filipino investors.
During the fundraising announcement, they said that they are eyeing a license in the Philippines and Coen Jonker, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman told Reuters that they were in the final stages of closing an exclusive partnership with a consortium.
A representative from Tyme Bank confirmed that they did not submit for a bid in Malaysia.
National oil giant Petronas was also reportedly in the running to bid for a digital banking license in Malaysia. Though they have since come out to refute claims from Bloomberg that it is looking to focus on digital Islamic banking with a local financial institution.
Petronas’ fintech business includes Setel, an e-wallet designed specifically to be used within their own petrol stations.