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Singapore’s Whampoa Group plans to set up digital bank in Bahrain open to crypto clients

SINGAPORE - Whampoa Group, a prominent multi-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 investment group was co-founded by Ms Amy Lee, a former senior partner at Lee & Lee, a Singapore law firm started by her father Lee Kim Yew and Singapore’s first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and his wife.

Its other co-founder is Mr Lee Han Shih, a member of the business family that co-founded OCBC and Lee Rubber Group, among other companies.

A government spokesman 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 collapsed in this year’s US banking turmoil.

Whampoa Group last year said it intended to raise US$50 million (S$67 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 that applied for but didn’t receive a digital-bank licence 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 United States has cracked down on the sector. BLOOMBERG