Bloomberg today reports that billionaire Jack Ma’s Ant Financial Services Group may apply for a virtual banking license in Singapore.

“We are actively looking into this opportunity,“ Ant Financial told Bloomberg.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore is offering as many as five digital banking permits to non-banks and Jack Ma’s company may become yet another heavyweight contender to the race.

Singapore is trying to to open up the industry to new competitors that would compete with traditional banking groups such as DBS Group Holdings Ltd. and Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp.

There are up to two licenses for grabs for a full digital bank. One is a service requiring S$1.5 billion ($1.1 billion) in capital and local control.

The other would be for wholesale banks, which foreign firms can run and the capital threshold is S$100 million, says Bloomberg. 

On Nov 7, Monetary Authority of Singapore managing director Ravi Menon said the country wants to become a regional hub for tech firms with advance data expertise. In this respect, Singapore is opening the doors virtual banks.

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Monetary Authority of Singapore in Oct announced it is issuing 5 licenses by 2020. During the announcement, Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Chairman of MAS said the regulator is committed to allowing for greater competition that would spur innovation in finance.

He also stressed that Singapore “must retain strong local anchor and trust in the banking system.” -/TISG