Standard Chartered has signed a deal with Singapore’s biggest trade union group to form a digital bank, the British lender’s second virtual business in the region.
The London-based bank said on Monday it had agreed a joint venture with BetaPlus, a company controlled by the social enterprise division of the National Trades Union Congress, known as NTUC Enterprise. Bloomberg reported in August 2020 that the pair were in talks.
Standard Chartered said it would invest 144 million Singaporean dollars ($107m) and own 60 per cent of the business, while BetaPlus would put in 96m Singaporean dollars for the remainder. They have given the venture the temporary name of SC Bank Solutions.
Singapore is one of Standard Chartered’s most important markets and the base for thousands of its staff. The bank also enjoys close connections to the Singaporean government, which is the company’s largest shareholder through the Temasek Holdings sovereign wealth fund.
The bank has introduced digital-only platforms around the world for the past two years. Last year, in Hong Kong, it launched Mox, a four-way joint venture with partners including Trip.com Group, China’s largest online travel agency.
Like Mox, the Singaporean digital bank will be separately licensed and effectively compete against Standard Chartered itself, with an expectation that the business will help the bank reach a pool of customers it would otherwise miss. Standard Chartered says it has signed up about 3.5 per cent of Hong Kong’s population to Mox.
In Africa, Standard Chartered has adopted a low-cost approach, setting up online-only banks in several countries. It started with Cote d’Ivoire and expanded to markets including Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda.