Consortium led by V3 Group and EZ-Link bids to be digital full bank, wants to focus on SMEs

Prototypes of credit cards for retail and SME banking, as envisioned by the Beyond consortium, as part of its application for the digital full bank licence. PHOTO: BEYOND CONSORTIUM

SINGAPORE - A consortium led by lifestyle and fintech enterprise V3 Group and card and payments company EZ-Link is seeking a digital full bank licence, it said on Sunday (Jan 5), making it the third applicant to announce it has submitted a bid.

Called Beyond, the consortium also comprises private property developer Far East Organization, the Singapore Business Federation (SBF), insurer Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance (MSIG) and Temasek subsidiary Heliconia.

The group said in a statement on Sunday that it wants to focus on the needs of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which employ nearly 70 per cent of Singapore's workforce. The consortium added that it will take an industry specific approach, reaching out to companies and individuals in areas such as real estate, construction, mass transport, insurance and retail.

A digital full bank licence will allow Beyond to serve retail customers and extend loans to individuals as well as companies.

Its application was submitted before Dec 31 last year, the last day for firms to apply for a digital full bank licence.

Beyond's announcement comes three days after gaming company Razer said it had, through a consortium that includes Sheng Siong Holdings and four other partners, applied for a digital full bank licence.

Telco Singtel and tech company Grab have also formed a consortium and made a joint bid for a licence.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore said in June last year that it would issue up to five new digital bank licences for both full and wholesale banks to players who may not have an established record in banking.

Mr Gan Chee Yen, chairman-designate of the Beyond consortium, said in a statement: "Our proposal represents the combined strengths of some of Singapore's most established companies and their reach to SMEs and their workforce."

He added: "We have developed a suite of innovative products and services to cater to the needs of digital natives, the gig economy, the silver generation and SMEs operating in different industries."

Last year, SBF and V3 Fintech, the financial technology arm of lifestyle products group V3, set up a regional digital academy called Beyond Lab. It helps SMEs in Singapore acquire digital technology to increase operational efficiency and competitiveness, focusing in areas such as data analytics to support green solutions and fintech innovations.

Mr Ho Meng Kit, chief executive officer of SBF, said that although SMEs play a significant role in the economy, some of them, specially smaller enterprises and start-ups, tend to face more difficulty in managing their financing and securing funding from traditional banks.

"We are encouraged to see the active interest by many companies to establish digital banks in Singapore, as they will improve access to financing for our SMEs," he added.

Beyond's effort, he added, will help local businesses expand into new markets, as well as "enhance the services SBF can provide to its membership base of over 27,000, elevate their competitiveness and create better jobs for Singaporeans".

The consortium said it will leverage on the core strengths and networks of its members such as EZ-Link, which issues the cards commonly used for public transport and retail and has a customer base of around five million active cardholders.

Additionally, general insurer MSIG will be developing customised insurance solutions to meet the needs of the under-served, and Beyond said customers and businesses can expect more choices in the form of micro-coverage, modular and usage-based insurance.

Mr Ron Sim, founder and executive chairman of V3 Group which owns, among others, high-end massage chair maker Osim and luxury tea brand TWG Tea, said in a statement: "Pure digital banking is the future, and we aim to embrace it together with the rest of Singapore's promising fintech community."

"We also cannot be solely focused on catering to the digital natives," he added. "The vast majority of people in Singapore are part of the SME ecosystem, and we want to help them and their families."

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