Discussions around digital banks have resurfaced once again, as the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) announced that 14 of the 21 initial digital bank applicants have moved on the next stage of assessment.

As a recap, the MAS had said in June last year that it would issue two digital full bank (DFB) licences and three digital wholesale bank (DWB) licences.

The original intention was to confirm the successful applicants by June, and for them to begin operations by the middle of 2021.

However, with COVID-19, this timeline has been pushed back.

The selection should now take place in the second half of 2020, and applicants also need to review their business plans and assumptions in light of the pandemic.

This liberalisation of the banking industry does signal that change is coming to the competitive landscape.

Could digital banks herald a permanent and structural change in the way banks operate?