Sea opens digital bank MariBank to public on invite-only basis

Sea's MariBank offers a savings account with an interest rate of 2.5 per cent, with no minimum deposit, salary credit requirement or minimum spend amount. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE – Tech giant Sea has quietly opened its digital bank to members of the public on an invite-only basis. MariBank had been previously made available to just Sea group employees since the third quarter of 2022.

It now offers a Mari Savings Account with an interest rate of 2.5 per cent a year, with no minimum deposit, salary credit requirement or minimum spend amount.

Interest is accrued daily and calculated based on the previous day’s balance, according to The Straits Times’ checks on the bank’s website on Tuesday.

Customers can also send and receive money instantly via PayNow in the bank’s app, and pay at stores that accept PayNow QR codes.

They must be a Singaporean or permanent resident, and be at least 18 years old, to open a Mari Savings Account.

Those who have received an invitation are to download the MariBank app from the Apple App Store, Google Play Store or Huawei AppGallery.

They can register for a MariBank account with a valid Singapore mobile number, and open a savings account digitally with Singpass Myinfo. Applications will be processed instantly or within one working day, said the bank, which noted that it is rolling out its services progressively.

ST understands that the bank’s invitations are currently limited to users of its ecosystem such as Shopee customers and individual sellers.

Sea, the parent company of e-commerce heavyweight Shopee and gaming arm Garena, has until now largely been quiet about its digital bank here.

It said last year that its digibanks are still in “a very nascent stage” – it has a licence in Malaysia under a consortium and also operates SeaBank in Indonesia and the Philippines.

“We have started some pilot programmes for MariBank, where we have opened up limited features to employees,” said group chief corporate officer Yanjun Wang at an earnings call last November.

The latest development comes after New York-listed Sea recorded its first quarterly profit of US$422.8 million (S$570 million) for the fourth quarter ended Dec 31 following aggressive cost cuts and layoffs over the past year.

MariBank and GXS Bank, which is backed by Grab and Singtel, won two digital full bank licences in Singapore and can serve retail and corporate customers.

There is also Trust Bank, which also operates only online but holds a full bank licence that allows it to function in a similar way to traditional lenders. It is backed by heavyweights Standard Chartered Bank and FairPrice Group.

Singapore’s other digital banks – Anext Bank and Green Link Digital Bank – are wholesale banks that can serve micro, small and medium-sized enterprises and non-retail clients.

GXS also launched an invitation-only savings account last August.

ST understands that part of the reason for this is a restricted phase imposed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore that aims to minimise the impact of initial operational issues and allow the banks to fine-tune their business before catering to the broader public.

These digital full banks must cap their aggregate deposits at $50 million – excluding wholesale deposits if they have a paid-up capital of at least $100 million – and restrict their depositor base in their first one to two years of operation.

Trust Bank is not subject to the cap as it is considered a full bank.

The digital bank newcomers are off to a strong start but will need to overcome hurdles such as fierce competition from incumbent banks to establish a secure foothold in the financial sector, observers previously told ST.

Local heavyweights DBS Bank, OCBC Bank and UOB have in recent months raised the interest rates of their flagship savings accounts and fixed deposits. There are also other high-yielding alternative instruments in the market.

But digital banks might find a niche in catering to underserved businesses and individuals. These include firms that lack data for lenders to assess their creditworthiness and self-employed people without regular income.

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