BigPay prepares to launch in Singapore, considers options for digital bank licence in Malaysia

PETALING JAYA: BigPay, which is getting ready to launch in Singapore in the coming weeks, is considering different options to apply for a digital banking licence in Malaysia, including whether to tie-up with a strategic partner or to go it alone.

“We have a strong team and strong product. We have many products that resemble what a virtual bank looks like and we don’t need to rebuild. But we’re open to working with strategic partners. Many people reach out to us and we’re considering our options,“ BigPay co-founder and CEO Christopher Davison said in a virtual press briefing today.

He added that its current e-money (payment) and remittance features, as well as a digital banking licence, if obtained, will enable BigPay to do many other things a bank would do and allow it to grow its business in any of these three core pillars for commercial banking.

“Our product is the most bank app-like product and it is fully converted into a digital bank. The only difference between the product that we offer and what a banking licence would allow us to offer, is offering interests on deposits and for us to lend,“ explained Davison.

Although the digital banking rollout in Malaysia has been delayed, Davison said BigPay was much engaged with the regulator. The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has delayed its announcement on digital bank licensees, while Bank Negara Malaysia has extended the consultation period for its digital banking framework.

He added that BigPay’s business has been resilient during the Covid-19 pandemic and that 75% of spend on the app is in Malaysia being the everyday spend in groceries, petrol, e-commerce and so on.

BigPay is an AirAsia-linked fintech company, and Davision acknowledged that AirAsia’s distribution platform has served it well, but stressed that it is highly diversified and not dependent on just travel or airline.

Launched in 2018, BigPay has grown to be one of the largest e-money issuers in Malaysia by gross transaction value and has 1.2 million users in the country. Its business is showing strong growth in international money transfers and online spending, thanks to the worldwide acceptance of its card.

Now, the fast-growing fintech is getting ready to make its mobile money app and prepaid Visa card available to all Singapore residents in the coming weeks.

BigPay had received its licence from the MAS to operate in Singapore early this year.

“We quietly opened up our waiting list on the app earlier this year and already have 20,000 people ready to get early access,” said Davison.

BigPay will make its two core features – payments and remittances – available in Singapore.

Users will be able to seamlessly open an account from their mobile phones and make payments at any local or international merchant. They will also be able to make free and instant money transfers to friends, split bills, manage work expenses and track their spending all in one integrated app.

In addition, Singapore users will be able to remit money quickly and at a competitive rate to 10 markets, namely Malaysia, China, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Australia, with more to come.

Operating on a challenger bank model, BigPay aims to give consumers access to all the mainstream financial products typically offered by retail banks – at a much lower cost and with greater efficiency.

BigPay also plans to launch new business lines such as loans, insurance and wealth management in the coming months, as well as expand to other Southeast Asian markets early in 2021.