This is a crucial move for Ant Group to tap into Southeast Asia.
Alibaba's fintech affiliate Ant Group announced the launch of its wholly-owned digital wholesale bank ANEXT in Singapore on June 6.
It is one of the two successful applicants to receive the digital wholesale banking licence issued by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), which was approved to commence business on 2 June.
This Singapore-based digital bank's focus was micro, small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs), particularly those engaging in cross-border operations for growth and global expansion.
The Chief Fintech Officer at the Monetary Authority of Singapore, Mr. Sopnendu Mohanty marked ANEXT's launch as "another milestone in Singapore's digital bank development journey".
He also added that MAS expected the digital banks to thrive and synergise with the dynamic financial institutions, and to uplift Singapore’s financial sector to better support the growth of SMEs in Singapore.
ANEXT Bank is perceived to be a core component of Ant Group's international strategy. Previously, Ant launched boardless payment and marketing solution Alipay+, along with WorldFirst (Chinese: 万里汇) which specializes in cross-border foreign exchange transfers and international payments.
The newly established digital bank is said to launch ANEXT Business Account in the early days of its opening; as of press time, the product is still unavailable on the official website.
Domestically speaking, digital bank, or neobank, is not a new term. Tencent's WeBank and Ant Group's MYBank are two of the leading private online-only banks. Other participants include Xiaomi, Meituan and Baidu.