(Bloomberg) — Whampoa Group, a prominent private family office in Singapore, plans to set up a digital bank in Bahrain whose services will include round-the-clock payments and settlement for digital-asset companies.
The goal is to establish the bank by year-end and provide banking services as well as the trading, custody and asset management of digital tokens, according to a statement from Whampoa Group. The firm’s founders include Lee Han Shih, a member of the Lee family that founded Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. and Amy Lee, the niece of the city-state’s founding prime minister.
A government spokesperson for Bahrain said the nation’s central bank has “granted an in principle approval” to Whampoa Group for the venture, adding the “approval is tentative and a full license will only be granted after all regulatory requirements have been met.”
Many existing lenders are wary of working with digital-asset firms following last year’s market rout and blowups like the FTX exchange. The sector also lost round-the-clock payments rails when crypto friendly lenders Signature Bank and Silvergate Capital Corp. collapsed in this year’s US banking turmoil.
Whampoa Group last year said it intended to raise US$50 million for a crypto-related hedge fund and deploy US$100 million for a venture-capital fund for the digital-asset sector. Before that, the group was part of a consortium led by ByteDance Ltd. that applied for but didn’t receive a digital-bank license in Singapore.
Jurisdictions globally are seeking to clarify and strengthen the regulation of digital assets. Some like Bahrain, Dubai and Hong Kong are trying to attract crypto-related investment. In contrast, the US has cracked down on the sector.
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Reporting by Suvashree Ghosh