Grab Holdings Limited and Singtel announced that GXS Bank Pte. Ltd., their digital bank joint venture, and a consortium of Malaysian investors including Kuok Brothers Sdn. Bhd (the “Malaysia digital bank consortium”) have been selected to receive a full digital banking licence in Malaysia, subject to meeting all of Bank Negara Malaysia’s regulatory conditions.
Subject to regulatory approvals, the digital bank joint venture will hold a 55.45% stake in the proposed Malaysia digital bank, which will be led by Pei Si Lai, a financial services industry veteran with over 25 years of experience. Lai has been appointed its CEO designate and will form a dedicated team that aims to redefine banking for the estimated one in two Malaysians who are underserved or unbanked.
The digital bank to be established by the Malaysia digital bank consortium is expected to enable local micro-SMEs and other financially underserved segments such as gig economy workers to access a suite of financial services that will serve them through their lifecycle. In particular, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are expected to be key beneficiaries of digital banking.
They form the backbone of the Malaysian economy – representing over 97% of overall business establishments, contributing approximately 38% of national GDP, and employing nearly half of the working population.
To build the Malaysia digital bank that will seek to offer seamless and secure financial services customised to meet consumer needs, Lai will assemble a team with diverse backgrounds in finance and technology. Over 200 roles are targeted to be filled by launch, including in the areas of product and design, data, technology, risk, and compliance.
Reuben Lai, Senior Managing Director, Grab Financial Group (Digibank) and board member of the regional digibank joint venture, said, “The Malaysia digital bank consortium is honoured to be given the opportunity to build a next-generation digital bank and drive access to financial services for underbanked Malaysians. We are thankful to Bank Negara Malaysia for their trust in us. We will leverage the consortium’s combined strengths, including our technology expertise, data from highly-engaged consumers using everyday services, experience providing financial services across Southeast Asia, and deep understanding of the Malaysian market, to redefine the banking experience for underbanked Malaysians and improve their economic outcomes – small businesses will have access to growth capital, and individuals the opportunity to dream bigger.”
Arthur Lang, Singtel’s Group Chief Financial Officer and board member of the regional digibank joint venture said, “We are glad to have this opportunity to support Malaysia’s vision of greater financial inclusion for its people. Our consortium partners and ourselves are excited to build a platform that will provide innovative digital banking services for the underbanked as well as the SMEs that are the backbone of the Malaysian economy. This aligns closely with our goal of harnessing technology to empower people across the region, bringing greater options and positive change as we build something special across the region. We aim to spur fintech innovation that will transform the banking experience, making financial services more accessible, relevant and affordable.”
As CEO designate of the Malaysian digital bank, Lai brings extensive experience and deep customer centricity honed over 25 years in retail banking, wealth management, corporate finance, product and business management, as well as governance, in both local and international markets. Prior to her current role, she was Managing Director and Country Head, Consumer, Private and Business Banking for Standard Chartered in Malaysia.
Lai said, “The opportunity to build the Malaysian digital bank from the ground up and be at the forefront of the fast-evolving Malaysian FinTech landscape is incredibly exciting. Aside from leveraging agile banking technology that will enable us to offer tailored and unique banking experiences for our consumers, my team and I will also tap on the strong support from our shareholders and strategic partners, as well as guidance from Bank Negara Malaysia and the Ministry of Finance, to deliver on our mission to serve and empower underbanked Malaysian communities such as gig workers and small businesses. We will also actively partner with leading industry players to advance the Malaysian financial landscape.”
Moving forward, the Malaysia digital bank consortium will work closely with Bank Negara Malaysia to meet all of its requirements in order to be awarded the Malaysia digital bank licence.
The digital bank joint venture between Grab and Singtel was formed in 2020 and selected to be awarded a full digital banking licence in Singapore.