PE firm Creador anchors UNOAsia's $11m pre-Series A funding

Manila, Philippines. Photo: David Milmont/unsplash

Kuala Lumpur-based private equity firm Creador has anchored the $11-million pre-Series A funding in UNOAsia, the Singapore-based incorporator of UNO Digital Bank (UNObank) in the Philippines.

UNObank is one of the six digital banks that received licence in the Philippines. Digital banks in the country have a three-year window to operate after they get the licence, according to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), the country’s central bank.

The investment raises Creador’s total commitment to UNOAsia to $21 million, making it the fintech startup’s largest investor. The pre-Series A funding round also brings UNOAsia’s total funds raised to date to $44.5 million, including a drawn-down capital of $34 million.

UNOAsia’s investors include founders Manish Bhai and Kalidas Ghose, Creador Private Equity, marquee investors Akash Bhanshali (Payash Securities), Samir Arora (Helios Capital), and other senior investors from the banking and financial sectors.

The additional capital, according to Bhai, will see the startup through the commercial launch of its digital bank in the Philippines, which is currently operating under closed-loop beta.

Recently, there has been a big rush for digital banking licences in the Philippines, drawn by the country’s 45 million underbanked adult population.

The first bank to obtain the licence was Overseas Filipino Bank, a subsidiary of the state-owned Land Bank of the Philippines. The others that have secured digital banking licences are Tonik Digital Bank Inc (Philippines), whose holding company is Singapore-based Tonik Financial Pte Ltd; UNObank; Aboitiz-led Union Digital Bank; and GOtyme, which is owned by the Gokongwei Group and Singapore fintech firm Tyme.

The sixth licence was awarded to Maya Bank, the fintech arm of Voyager Innovations Inc.

Former central bank governor Benjamin Diokno had earlier said digital banks, which are also subject to prudential requirements that are imposed on traditional lenders, are expected to help the BSP reach its goal of bringing 70% of Filipinos into the formal banking system and seeing 50% of transactions go online by 2023.

UNOAsia disclosed plans to ultimately create a regional business, expanding beyond the Philippines over the next few years.

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