Grab Holdings Limited said Friday that the digital bank consortium comprising GXS Bank Pte. Ltd., its digital bank joint venture with Singapore Telecommunications Limited (Singtel), and Malaysian investors including Kuok Brothers Sdn. Bhd, is expected to enable local micro-small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and other financially underserved segments such as gig economy workers to access a suite of financial services that will serve them through their lifecycle.

Grab said in a statement that SMEs are expected to be key beneficiaries of digital banking, highlighting the segment forms the backbone of the Malaysian economy – representing over 97 percent of overall business establishments, contributing approximately 38 percent of national gross domestic product (GDP), and employing nearly half of the working population.

Subject to regulatory approvals, it said the digital bank joint venture will hold a 55.45 percent stake in the proposed Malaysia digital bank, which will be led by Pei Si Lai, a financial services industry veteran with over 25 years of experience.

According to the statement, Lai has been appointed its Chief Executive Officer designate and will form a dedicated team that aims to redefine banking for the estimated one in two Malaysians who are underserved or unbanked.

To build the Malaysia digital bank that will seek to offer seamless and secure financial services customised to meet consumer needs, it said Lai will assemble a team with diverse backgrounds in finance and technology.

Over 200 roles are targeted to be filled by launch, including in the areas of product and design, data, technology, risk, and compliance, it added.

“The Malaysia digital bank consortium is honoured to be given the opportunity to build a next-generation digital bank and drive access to financial services for underbanked Malaysians. We are thankful to Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) for their trust in us,

“We will leverage the consortium’s combined strengths, including our technology expertise, data from highly-engaged consumers using everyday services, experience providing financial services across Southeast Asia, and deep understanding of the Malaysian market, to redefine the banking experience for underbanked Malaysians and improve their economic outcomes – small businesses will have access to growth capital, and individuals the opportunity to dream bigger,” said Reuben Lai, Senior Managing Director, Grab Financial Group (Digibank) and board member of the regional digibank joint venture.

Meanwhile, Singtel’s Group Chief Financial Officer and board member of the regional digibank joint venture Arthur Lang said he is glad to have this opportunity to support Malaysia’s vision of greater financial inclusion for its people.

“Our consortium partners and ourselves are excited to build a platform that will provide innovative digital banking services for the underbanked as well as the SMEs that are the backbone of the Malaysian economy. This aligns closely with our goal of harnessing technology to empower people across the region, bringing greater options and positive change as we build something special across the region. We aim to spur fintech innovation that will transform the banking experience, making financial services more accessible, relevant and affordable,” he said.

As Chief Executive Officer designate of the Malaysian digital bank, Pei Si Lai brings extensive experience and deep customer centricity honed over 25 years in retail banking, wealth management, corporate finance, product and business management, as well as governance, in both local and international markets. Prior to her current role, she was Managing Director and Country Head, Consumer, Private and Business Banking for Standard Chartered in Malaysia.

“The opportunity to build the Malaysian digital bank from the ground up and be at the forefront of the fast-evolving Malaysian FinTech landscape is incredibly exciting. Aside from leveraging agile banking technology that will enable us to offer tailored and unique banking experiences for our consumers, my team and I will also tap on the strong support from our shareholders and strategic partners, as well as guidance from Bank Negara Malaysia and the Ministry of Finance, to deliver on our mission to serve and empower underbanked Malaysian communities such as gig workers and small businesses. We will also actively partner with leading industry players to advance the Malaysian financial landscape,” said Pei Si Lai.

Moving forward, Grab said the Malaysia digital bank consortium will work closely with BNM to meet all of its requirements in order to be awarded the Malaysia digital bank licence.

The digital bank joint venture between Grab and Singtel was formed in 2020 and selected to be awarded a full digital banking licence in Singapore.

The consortium of GXS Bank and Kuok Brothers was one of the five successful applicants that has been selected to receive a full digital banking licence in Malaysia, subject to meeting all of BNM’s regulatory conditions.

GRAB-Singtel, Axiata’s Boost-RHB, Sea Ltd-YTL, AEON Credit’s consortiums among winners of Malaysia digital banking licenses