Virtual bank applications to open in March

Virtual bank applications to open in March

Central bank eager to start the process

Virtual banking operations are expected to begin in 2026.
Virtual banking operations are expected to begin in 2026.

The Bank of Thailand is scheduled to open the application period for virtual banking licences this month, attracting several business operators.

The central bank submitted the draft for virtual banking regulations to the Finance Ministry, with the rules slated for publication in the Royal Gazette.

The regulator wants to open the application period in March, said Suwannee Jatsadasak, central bank assistant governor for the supervision group.

The bank plans to spend around nine months to evaluate applicant qualifications, then announce the approvals by the middle of 2025, said Ms Suwannee.

Virtual banking operations are expected to begin in 2026, she said.

"Several business operators are interested in applying for licences via a consortium," Ms Suwannee said.

In the first round, the regulator is offering three licences, announcing the number is suitable to ensure stability of the local financial market and protect depositors from risk.

The central bank requires minimum registered capital of 5 billion baht to apply for a virtual bank licence, eager to ensure a secure footing.

The regulator previously said one of its goals is a new business model emerging that can improve financial inclusivity for unserved and underserved customer segments.

Recently SCB X, a holding company of Siam Commercial Bank (SCB), announced it plans to apply for a licence through a collaboration with KakaoBank, the largest digital bank in South Korea.

Advanced Info Service wants to cooperate with Krungthai Bank on applying for a licence, while True Money also indicated interest in an application.

In related news, the central bank redefined Domestic Systemically Important Banks (D-SIBs) by adding mobile banking transactions to the definition, as these transactions continue to dominate the country's banking system.

In 2023, mobile banking transactions tripled from the sum from 2019.

Normally the central bank reviews D-SIBs annually, taking into account the evolving banking landscape, financial system and overall economy, Ms Suwannee said.

There are six D-SIBs regulated by the central bank, comprising Bangkok Bank, Kasikornbank, Krungthai Bank, SCB, Bank of Ayudhya and TMBThanachart Bank.

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