Malaysia’s Axiata Digital aims to apply for digital banking licence, says CEO

Axiata Digital CEO Mohd Khairil Abdullah

Axiata Digital, a subsidiary of telco conglomerate Axiata Group, is looking to apply for a digital banking licence in Malaysia as the race to set up a maiden virtual banking service intensifies in the country.

Its chief executive officer Mohd Khairil Abdullah told DealStreetAsia that the Kuala Lampur-headquartered group has evinced interest to foray into digital banking, but the time frame depends on Bank Negara’s final policy on the licence.

“I expect it will be around the second quarter or third quarter. Once the policy is out, we will be putting in our applications,” he said.

Late last year, in December, Malaysian central bank Bank Negara issued an exposure draft on licensing framework for digital banks, which is expected to be finalised by June-end. He then highlighted that as many as five licences will be doled out to new online banks offering either conventional or Islamic banking in the country.

Axiata Digital, that owns digital mobile wallet (e-wallet) app Boost, claims to have as many as 4.7 million users and 112,000 merchants as of third quarter of last year.

“We see massive potential for digital banking because there is still a large unbanked and underserved population in Malaysia, such as micro-small and medium-sized enterprises, overseas foreign workers, millennials, gig-economy participants,” said Khairil. He added that the current banking business model alone is not enough to serve profitably without leveraging digital technology.

By using technology, Khairil said, the unit economics of serving diverse segments would become positive as technology would drive down acquisition, distribution and under-writing costs for a slew of financial products.

“This will then open up major segments of the population that today are not well served by banks,” he added.

Digital banking is one segment that is hotting up with action not only in Malaysia but in neighbouring country Singapore as well.

In Malaysia, those who are reportedly looking to place their bids include prominent names such as ride-hailing giant Grab, gaming firm Razer, low-cost carrier AirAsia and lender CIMB, among others, per a report recently published by Reuters.

Meanwhile, in Singapore, as many as 21 applications have been received already for five digital bank licences.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.