Grab mulls becoming a bank

Grab could next offer financial service aside to ride hailing and food delivery.

SINGAPORE: Leading Southeast Asian ride-sharing provider Grab is considering applying for a digital banking license if Singapore’s banking regulator allows it, Reuters reported citing four people with knowledge of the process.

Grab, which acquired Uber Technologies Inc’s Southeast Asian business, is close to hiring a consultancy firm to advise it on the matter, Reuters said. A company representative declined to comment.

Grab is one of the region’s biggest startup successes in the last decade. Founded in 2012 in Malaysia, the Singapore-based ride-sharing company is now valued at US$14 billion according to CB Insights, making it the most valuable privately-held startup outside China and the United States according to the New York-based analytics firm.

The company has some financial offerings currently, including an app-based mobile payment platform that allows users to purchase anything from its transport services to food deliveries.

However, a move into actual banking would represent both a shift for the startup and fresh competition for Singapore’s banking landscape that’s dominated by three local lenders, DBS Group Holdings Ltd, Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp and United Overseas Bank Ltd.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore is expected to allow two to three licenses to operate digital banks for companies that don’t have an existing bank parent, and may decide on the issue within months, Reuters said.

MAS pointed to its May statement that said it was studying the issue.