WeLab Digital secures online-only banking licence in Hong Kong

WeLab founder and CEO Simon Loong. Photo: WeLab's LinkedIn page

WeLab Digital Limited was awarded Hong Kong’s fourth online-only banking licence on Wednesday, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority said in a statement, giving the fintech company access to a lucrative retail banking market in the Asian financial hub.

WeLab is a fintech company that offers mobile lending services primarily in Hong Kong and mainland China.

The HKMA had previously granted virtual banking licences to joint ventures of Standard Chartered and BOC Hong Kong as well as to a subsidiary of ZhongAn Technologies International Group, the international arm of Chinese online insurer ZhongAn Online P&C Insurance.

The introduction of online-only banking has the potential to be the biggest shake-up in years in the city’s retail banking sector dominated by old-guard lenders such as HSBC, StanChart and a slew of Chinese banks.

Many consumers are unhappy with the current options, however the entrenched position of current retail banks is expected to be a major challenge for the new online-only entrants.

“The introduction of virtual banks in Hong Kong is a key pillar supporting Hong Kong’s entry into the smart banking era,” the HKMA said in the statement announcing WeLab‘s licence.

“Virtual banks will not only help drive FinTech and innovation, but also bring about brand new customer experiences and further promote financial inclusion in Hong Kong.”

The HKMA said WeLab intended to launch its services within six to nine months.

Some 33 virtual banking applications were submitted by the deadline of Aug. 31 last year. The HKMA short-listed eight, and said on Wednesday it was making good progress on the remaining four applications.

Besides individuals, small firms, which have long complained of difficulties in opening bank accounts in Hong Kong, will also be targeted by the new online lenders, with small loans, foreign exchange and payment services among those on offer.

Also Read

Online lender WeLab said to delay $500m Hong Kong IPO

Reuters

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.