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Two initiatives spotlight push towards digital banking

By Lawrence Gash

Disruption spearheaded by fintech start-ups in the West and the government in China

Two new digital banking initiatives are adding weight to the view that 2020 will be the year in which this form of fintech comes to the fore.

The momentum is set to come both from disruptive start-ups and at state level.

In an instance of the first, Mark Hipperson, co-founder and former Chief Technical Officer of breakthrough company Starling Bank, announced the launch of a new crypto-friendly digital bank.

Hipperson aims for his digital Ziglu bank to process $1bn (£76bn, €90bn) in transactions in 2020 and to create “one truly complete current account”.

The app is currently available in beta form and a launch is planned later this month, subject to obtaining an e-money licence from the British Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Digital banking in will not face such regulatory hurdles in China where the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) is spearheading development. The central bank of the world’s second largest economy has been working on a tokenised, digital version of the Chinese yuan for the past five years and looks set to launch it this year.

China is also bidding to spread this technology beyond its borders. Ant Financial, a subsidiary of the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, has joined the race to obtain one of the two “digital full bank” licences on offer from the central bank of Singapore.

A spokesman said: “We look forward to contributing to the development of the digital banking landscape in Singapore.”

Last autumn President Xi Jinping called for China to “seize the opportunity” afforded by blockchain technology.

Further Reading: Winklevoss twins appoint digital bank founder to their crypto-exchange

Further Reading: Digital yuan will be different from Bitcoin, Chinese official reveals

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