The consortium led by KAF Investment Bank Bhd, which won one of the five Malaysian digital bank licences, plans to launch its digital bank as early as year-end or early next year.

The consortium, which also includes Malaysia’s first tech unicorn Carsome, is finalizing the launching date, according to Carsome Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer Eric Cheng.

“Still in progress on getting the live date. I think… it’s optimistic. They are looking to be the first out [to launch],” he told reporters at a recent media luncheon (May 18) at its headquarters.

“To be the first, it means end of this year or early next year,” Cheng said, when asked about the timeline.

Carsome, together with FinTech firm Jirnexu and digital remittance platform MoneyMatch, forms part of the consortium led by KAF Investment Bank which will be licensed under the Islamic Financial Services Act (IFSA) 2014.

Carsome is Southeast Asia’s largest integrated car e-commerce platform with presence across Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore while Jirnexu is known for its digital financial marketplace, RinggitPlus – Malaysia’s financial comparison website. MoneyMatch is operating in the international payment space, operating on a fully digital platform to provide remittance services for individuals and businesses with a global reach of over 82 countries in more than 40 currencies.

In a separate media conference last Friday, Malaysia-based telco Axiata Group Bhd CEO and Managing Director Vivek Sood said it plans to launch the digital bank by end-2023 and targets to make it profitable over the next three to four years.

Vivek said the group did not foresee any hurdles for the digital bank as of now, but the whole process of launching the bank requires a thorough review and approval needed from the central bank.

Axiata’s unit Boost Holdings Sdn Bhd, in a consortium with RHB Bank Bhd, has secured one of the five digital bank licences issued by central bank last year.

​​Malaysia’s move to issue digital bank licenses comes at a time when regulators across Asia including Singapore, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia, are opening up the banking industry to digital players, encouraged by higher smartphone penetration and better internet connections.

Central Banks and consumers hope that digital banks could bring financial inclusion to underserved segments, helped by advanced technology.

The other recipients of the digital banking licenses are a consortium led by YTL Digital Capital Sdn Bhd and Sea Ltd; a consortium led by GXS Bank Pte Ltd and Kuok Brothers Sdn Bhd; and a consortium of MoneyLion Inc, Aeon Financial Service Co Ltd and AEON Credit Service (M) Bhd.

Malaysia’s Carsome banks on digital banking to complement existing car business