CM: S’wak govt will consider applying for license to set up state’s own digital bank


Abang Johari (centre) signing the plaque to mark the opening of the KCGC Innovation Hub at the at Wisma Chinese Chamber in Kuching on Wednesday. He was accompanied by (from left) Kuching City South Mayor Datuk Wee Hong Seng, Minister of Transport Datuk Lee Kim Shin, Chan, KCGCCI president Dato Tan Jit Kee, Minister for Local Government and Housing Dato Sri Dr Sim Kui Hian and Assistant Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Sebastian Ting. – Photo by Muhammad Rais Sanusi

KUCHING: The Sarawak government will consider applying for a license from Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) to set up the state’s own digital bank, said Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.

He told reporters today that since Sarawak now has its own e-wallet, he hoped the central bank would grant the license to the state government when it applies for it.

The Chief Minister said this after the digital bank was proposed by Kuching Chinese General Chamber of Commerce & Industry (KCGCCI) Digital Economy Committee Chairman Rodger Chan Siong Boh.

Asked when the state government would apply for the license, he said: “Not yet. It was only mentioned just now. We just express our interest (for now).”

He added that the state government would support any Sarawakian financial institution applying for the digital bank license.

In his speech at the opening of the KCGCCI’s Innovation Hub at Wisma Chinese Chamber by the Chief Minister earlier, Chan proposed that the state government consider setting up a digital bank to enhance its digital economy initiative.

“We are the first Chamber of Commerce in Sarawak to use Sarawak Pay and e-wallet, which is an important part of e-commerce.

“Digital monetary transactions is an essential part and parcel of commerce today and tomorrow.

“I understand that the federal government is looking at issuing licence for digital banks. I hope that Sarawak would also consider setting up a digital bank for the good of Sarawak digital economy,” said Chan.

BNM had recently issued the Exposure Draft on Licensing Framework for Digital Banks that forms part of the series of measures adopted by the bank to enable innovative application of technology in the financial sector.

It said in a statement at the end of last month that it has set an asset threshold of not more than RM2 billion in the initial three to five years of operations for the digital banks as a ‘foundational phase’ for the licensees to demonstrate their viability and sound operations, and for BNM to observe performance and attendant risks.

Digital banks would be required to comply with the requirements under the Financial Services Act 2013 or Islamic Financial Services Act 2013, including relevant requirements that comprise, amongst others, standards on prudential, business conduct and consumer protection, as well as on anti-money laundering and terrorism financing.

Meanwhile, Abang Johari said since Sarawak has a very small population of about 2.8 million compared to the rest of the country, the state should expand its economy and market through digital economy.

“We make use of our current strength in our natural resources and enhance our talents, then we can market our products to the rest of the world,” he said.

Abang Johari said through digital economy, Sarawak only needed to tap the Asean market to be able to get connected to at least three billion potential clients.

“We have our strength in our natural resources and talents. We use that strength to penetrate the Asean market,” he said.