SCB X preps for virtual bank licence
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SCB X preps for virtual bank licence

SCB X, the financial technology conglomerate and holding company of Siam Commercial Bank, is gearing up to apply for a virtual banking licence from the Bank of Thailand in September.

The company plans to leverage the database from its Robinhood app, which is slated to close later this month, for its tentative virtual bank.

According to chief executive Arthid Nanthawithaya, the company is collaborating with two foreign partners to prepare to apply for a virtual bank licence from the central bank in September, within the regulator's time frame.

SCB X established a consortium for its prospective virtual banking venture with two foreign partners: KakaoBank, South Korea's largest fully digital bank, and WeBank, a prominent digital bank based in China.

Mr Arthid said the company intends to maintain its subsidiary, Purple Ventures, which operates the Robinhood app -- a commission-free platform for on-demand food delivery, hotel booking and other services -- despite plans to shut down the food delivery operations by July 31.

Robinhood was established under SCB to support drivers, merchants and small and medium-sized enterprises during the pandemic.

As SCB's financial operations are supervised of the central bank, the regulator prohibits the bank from charging gross profit (GP) fees for ride-hailing businesses.

Purple Ventures and the Robinhood app were transferred to SCB X as part of the group's business transformation.

However, SCB X incurred significant losses from Robinhood because of the lack of GP fees. Consequently, the company made the decision to shut down the app.

He said SCB X plans to use Robinhood's staff, database and loans in other subsidiaries under SCB X. The company wants to utilise Robinhood's extensive database for the planned virtual bank, said Mr Arthid.

"For the next phase, SCB X may seek permission from the central bank to charge a GP fee for Purple Ventures' ride-hailing business and integrate its ecosystem with the prospective virtual bank. However, this is not a priority at the moment," he said.

Two other consortiums are also preparing to apply for virtual banking licences.

Charoen Pokphand (CP) Group's TrueMoney, a Southeast Asia e-payment and financial service provider, is collaborating with Ant Group and CP Group's retail channels such as 7-Eleven convenience stores, which could serve as touchpoints for their services.

Similarly, Krungthai Bank, in partnership with Advanced Info Service and Gulf Energy Development, is establishing a consortium to pursue a virtual banking licence.

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