Chinese business mogul Jack Ma’s Alibaba-linked Ant Group has launched a digital banking service in Singapore to meet the needs of small businesses that conduct cross-border transactions.
Ant’s wholly-owned subsidiary ANEXT Bank will provide wholesale banking services in collaboration with Singapore’s Marina-based Proxtera, which operates an online marketplace connecting small businesses.
It has agreed to a two-year memorandum of understanding with the Singapore company, which has been established to realise Business Sans Border (BSB), an initiative of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), as well as some private sector entities.
The launch comes after the MAS granted ANEXT Ban a digital wholesale banking licence.
As reported, ANEXT Bank will use Ant Group’s technologies and know-how, as well as collaborate with partners, to provide SMEs with simpler, safer, and more rewarding financial services.
The MAS granted a digital banking licence to ANEXT Bank in 2020, along with a unit of Singapore’s consumer tech giant Sea and a consortium of ride-hailing giant Grab and Singapore Telecommunications Limited, commonly known as SingTel.
Ant’s licence only allows for wholesale banking, whereas Grab and Sea will be able to serve both retail and corporate customers. As reported, Greenland Financial Holdings Group, Linklogis Hong Kong, and Beijing Co-operative Equity Investment Fund Management, the fourth recipient, will also provide wholesale banking.
Ant recently bolstered its Southeast Asian expansion by announcing in April that it had acquired a majority stake in Singapore-based fintech company 2C2P. The agreement will connect 2C2P’s current merchants to Ant Group’s cross-border e-wallet Alipay+.
Ant Group is an affiliate of Alibaba Group Holding which was targeted by the Chinese Communist Party regarding the regulatory crackdown, with officials spiking Ant’s planned IPO at the last minute in late 2020.
After Ma criticised the country’s authorities in a speech, authorities responded by enacting a broad regulatory crackdown on technology firms.
According to some reports, after more than a year, it is understood that Beijing would ease its crackdown on the technology sector. As a result of this ongoing investigation, it has brought down high-ranking politicians and powerful businessmen like Alibaba founder Ma.
In April last year, China imposed a sweeping restructuring on Ant Group. It came a few days after Ma’s Alibaba Group was slammed with a record antitrust fine of $2.75 billion as China tightens its grip on the expanding “platform economy”.
Ant was subjected to stricter regulatory supervision and capital requirements as a result of the revamp, which also compelled it to dissolve ties between its massively successful payments platform Alipay and its other operations, which had been seen as a key advantage due to Alipay’s vast collection of consumer data.
Ant, situated in Hangzhou, China, was positioned as a tech company in 2018 when it received $14 billion in the world’s largest single fundraising at a valuation of around $150 billion.
However, in January this year, it was said that Beijing must “show no mercy” to individuals involved in political gangs, tiny circles and entrenched interests within the party, according to the statement, which also warned of more investigations into financial and state-owned companies misconduct.
This warning came after a state television program alleged that Ant Group was involved in a corruption scandal. According to the TV show, unnamed corporations were accused of paying off the brother of a former Hangzhou official in exchange for favourable treatment.
Ant Group has reportedly invested in two subway payment companies run by the official’s brother through Ant subsidiary Yunxin Venture Capital Management Co, according to company records provided by business database Tianyancha.
However, Ant Group’s mutual aid platform Xianghubao suspended operations earlier this year due to Beijing’s financial risk worries. But in recent months, the corporation has also unloaded other businesses to streamline its investment portfolio.
It is understood that after being pressured by Chinese authorities to completely comply with financial standards, Ant Group has been revamping its operations.
In June this year, reports revealed that according to Ant Group, the chairman of the Hong Kong stock exchange’s operator has joined its board of directors, as the company continues to undergo restructuring following its shelved IPO in 2020.
Ant Group has published a 94-page sustainability report that outlined the company’s environmental, social and governance plan. The company’s website was also changed to include the names of two new directors—Laura Cha, who chairs the board of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Ltd, and Xiaolei Yang, a veteran attorney.
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