The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) received more than 300 applications for payments and cryptocurrency exchange licenses.
Among those who made the requests involved Google’s parent company, Alphabet, Alibaba Group’s various entities, Ant Group, and Binance Holdings Ltd.
Singapore’s central bank is currently working on ways to speed up the application process, said Sopnendu Mohanty, Chief Fintech Officer at MAS, in an interview with Bloomberg.
“Giving licences to somebody is a premium; it is not something to be taken lightly,” Mohanty said. “We are ensuring that whoever gets an MAS licence will be credible.”
Companies are applying under the Payment Services Act, a regulatory framework for those involved in activities related to digital assets trading and payments.
Those who applied but are waiting for approval are allowed to continue offering their services while their application is being processed. These companies have been working under a grace period since the regulator made the new Payment Services Act effective in January 2020.
Mohanty also shared that investment into financial technology firms is pouring in this year as Singapore seeks to become a regional hub for capital raising in areas from payments to Robo-advisory.
Such investments rose from around $20 million in 2014 to a record $1.1 billion last year, with more expected this year, said the top central bank official. On the central bank digital currency (CBDC) front, Mohanty said:
“In the Singapore context, it is not obvious that a retail central bank digital currency would be useful because today, you can already send money to each other at zero cost and with a few clicks. What can you do better than that?”
While the world is moving to digital currencies in terms of “CBDCs and stablecoins,” his views on Bitcoin are much like any other official, crypto being a “speculative asset.”
“I haven’t touched Bitcoin till now. It’s a speculative asset,” Mohanty said.
“It’s common sense that nobody should indulge in assets they don’t understand. It’s so volatile, and it’s so complex. MAS is doing a lot of work through parliament speeches and messages to tell people to be careful. And if people still go out and buy such risky assets, it is their choice.”