SK Group joins Malaysia’s BigPay consortium for digital banking licence

South Korea’s second-largest conglomerate SK Group is teaming up with Malaysian fintech firm BigPay to apply for a digital banking license in the Southeast Asian country, SK Group said in a statement.

In July 2021, BigPay, the financial service arm of budget airline AirAsia, said it had submitted its application to Bank Negara Malaysia with the support of a consortium comprising of Malaysian Industrial Development Finance Berhad, Ikhlas Capital, and a foreign conglomerate.

In August 2021, SK Group made a strategic investment of up to $100 million in BigPay.

“SK Group has seen the growing opportunity in digital banking as a way to change the way large portions of the population access financial services that they did not have before,” the Korean conglomerate said in the statement on January 4, 2022.

The firm added that in Korea, it has implemented services such as alternative credit rating and artificial intelligence-based data analytics.

Meanwhile, BigPay will leverage AirAsia’s network of large consumers and micro-SMEs, combined with its logistics arm Teleport, to catalyse intra-regional trade between Malaysian businesses and others in the region.

The Malaysian fintech company had earlier said that it would launch a number of new services, including responsible credit, micro-savings and an offering for micro-SMEs and freelancers.

BigPay is among nearly 30 applicants who are vying for digital banking licences in Malaysia. Other contenders include a joint venture between super app Grab and Singapore-listed telecom operator Singtel, Axiata Group, technology company Green Packet, real estate developer Sunway, as well as incumbent banks CIMB Group, Affin Bank Bhd, Hong Leong Bank Bhd and Standard Chartered Bank Malaysia Bhd.

The Malaysian central bank had earlier said it was planning to issue up to five licences in the first quarter of 2022.

Focus Malaysia

After having committed over $700 million in the country last year, SK Group is looking to further ramp up its investments in Malaysia.

In January 2021, SK Nexilis announced a capital expenditure of RM2.3 billion ($553 million) to set up a copper foil manufacturing facility in Sabah to support SK Group’s electric vehicle (EV) value chain.

Recently, SK Group’s subsidiary SoCar Malaysia raised more than $55 million from EastBridge Partners and local conglomerate Sime Darby Berhad, to fuel its expansion and build an EV platform in Malaysia, with plans to deploy hundreds of EVs in the next five years.

“Malaysia remains a strong investment destination for SK Group moving forward,” the $177-billion conglomerate said.

The firm will scout for further investment opportunities in EV, digitalisation and environment, it said.

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.