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Are central banks issuing digital banking licences to counter the threat of fintechs and big techs?
Technology has enabled the world of finance to innovate and diversify rapidly in recent years — and regulators have struggled to keep pace until now

March 20, 2020 | Ellen Hardy
  • Four of the leading Asian markets: Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, and China, have all adopted strong digital licence frameworks, with other countries in the region watching closely
  • Regulators have highlighted a desire to work together to establish global standards, although to date, different countries have been notable in implementing their own distinct regimes
  • The elephant in the room remains whether regulators will allow Chinese giants such as Tencent and Ant Financial to enter their markets, and how they are going to manage the ambitions of big tech firms such as Facebook, Google, and Apple

Four of the leading Asian Markets — Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia and China — have all adopted strong digital licence frameworks, with other countries in the region watching closely. Regulators on the other hand, have highlighted a desire to work together to establish global standards. Although to date, different countries have been notable in implementing their own distinct regimes. However, it remains to be seen whether regulators will allow Chinese giants such as Tencent and Alibaba’s Ant Financial to enter their markets, and how they are going to manage the ambitions of big tech firms such as Facebook, Google, and Apple.

As central banks begin issuing digital-only banking — also known as neo, virtual, and challenger banks — licences across the Asia Pacific region, questions are being raised about whether they are doing this to keep the ambitions of big tech firms, such as China’s Tencent and Alibaba, and US tech giants such as Facebook, Google, and Apple at bay.

Financial regulators in Australia, Hong Kong, China, India, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan have all recently issued such new forms of licences, while Singapore is in the process of doing so. The first internet bank in Japan, Japan Net Bank, began its operations as early as October 2000, driven by the financial deregulation in the 1990s. O...

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