Grab-Singtel digital bank venture hires Citi's Charles Wong

Citigroup's former retail banking head in Singapore has joined a new venture between Grab Holdings and Singtel that is competing for a digital bank licence.

The Grab-Singtel joint venture said it is starting to fill critical roles because it will take time to build a new digital banking service in the South-east Asian financial hub.

Mr Charles Wong will be senior managing director of the digital bank as it starts up.

"We remain committed to investing in and hiring talent despite the current Covid-19 situation," Grab and Singtel said in response to queries. "We are recruiting and building the foundation now to ensure that we have the right talent and infrastructure when the opportunity comes to provide a differentiated digital banking experience."

Singapore has yet to announce the winners among digital bank licence bidders.

At Citigroup, Mr Wong held roles in areas including bancassurance and wealth management during his two decades at the United States bank, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Grab, South-east Asia's most valuable start-up, has been banking on the potential of financial services to become profitable. But the coronavirus outbreak has brought fresh challenges as demand for Grab's services collapsed, with many cities across South-east Asia in lockdowns.

Grab chief executive officer Anthony Tan warned on Monday that the challenges the SoftBank Group-backed company is facing will require "tough decisions" about cutting costs and managing capital.

"We will right-size our costs, manage our capital efficiently and make the necessary operational adjustments in order to weather the storm and carve out a path to profitability," he said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 22, 2020, with the headline 'Grab-Singtel digital bank venture hires Citi's Charles Wong'. Subscribe