Singapore’s Whampoa Group Plans Digital Bank in Bahrain

  • The bank aims to offer a wide range of services, including trading of digital tokens.
  • Whampoa Group has received in-principle approval from Bahrain’s central bank.

Bloomberg reported that Whampoa Group, a well-known private family office based in Singapore, intends to establish a digital bank in Bahrain. The bank’s offerings will encompass continuous payment and settlement services for digital asset companies.

Whampoa Group aims to launch the bank by the end of the year, delivering a wide range of banking services such as trading, custody, and asset management of digital tokens, as stated by the company.

Ms. Amy Lee, a former senior partner at Lee & Lee, a Singapore law firm established by her father Lee Kim Yew, and Singapore’s first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and his wife, is one of the co-founders of the investment group.

Additionally, another co-founder of the investment group is Mr. Lee Han Shih, who belongs to the business family that played a role in co-founding OCBC Bank, Lee Rubber Group, and various other companies.

According to a government spokesman in Bahrain, the central bank of the nation has given Whampoa Group an “in-principle approval” for the venture. It should be noted that this approval is provisional, and a complete license will be issued only once all regulatory obligations have been fulfilled.

In 2018, Bahrain, a small oil producer, received a $10 billion aid package from neighboring Gulf countries to prevent a credit crunch. Since then, the state has been actively pursuing the growth of its fintech and finance industry as part of its strategy to diversify and bolster its non-oil economy.

Noting so, Whampoa Group CEO Shawn Chan shared,

We were impressed by Bahrain’s solid reputation in the financial services sector, transparent regulatory framework, and ongoing pledge to collaborate and innovate.

After the market downturn in 2022 and incidents such as the FTX exchange, numerous traditional lenders are hesitant to engage with digital asset firms. Meanwhile, the digital asset sector faced a setback in 2023 due to the collapse of crypto-friendly lenders Signature Bank and Silvergate Capital during the banking turmoil in the United States. Consequently, the sector lost access to round-the-clock payment infrastructure.

In 2022, Whampoa Group announced its plan to raise US$50 million (S$67 million) for a hedge fund focused on cryptocurrencies and allocate US$100 million for a venture capital fund dedicated to the digital asset sector. Prior to that, the group was involved in a consortium, led by ByteDance, that applied for a digital bank license in Singapore but was unsuccessful in obtaining it.

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