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A Beginner’s Guide to MAS License Applications in Singapore

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There has been an increase in the volume of Singapore fund management licence applications over time. This comes as no surprise, as many fund management companies and fund managers choose Singapore as an ideal location to manage their wealth and conduct business due to its clear regulation and stable government. The high level of trust and confidence can be seen via Singapore’s assets under management (AUM) which keep increasing. In 2019, its AUM grew 15.7% to S$4.0 trillion. That figure ballooned to S$4.7 trillion a year later, signalling a 17% increase year-on-year, and by 2021 it had reached S$5.4 trillion.

With no signs of slowing down, Singapore is fertile ground for fund management to flourish. However, establishing a presence in the Merlion City is not as simple as one may think. A company must be incorporated to be able to conduct business there.

Companies providing financial products and services must also obtain the required MAS licence in Singapore to be operational. Doing so means complying with the latest Payment Services Act (PSA), which was released in 2020.

Read our guide on the Singapore MAS here.

Under the PSA, there are currently seven covered activity types, meaning that if you carry out one or all of these activities, you should be a MAS-licenced entity. The seven activities are as follows:

    • Account issuance services: Issuing, maintaining or operating a payment account in Singapore. 

    • Domestic money transfer services: Payment transactions executed through a payment account in Singapore

    • Cross-border money transfer services: Providing services that facilitate inbound and outbound money transfers.

    • Merchant acquisition services: Supplying point-of-sale terminals or online payment gateways for merchants to accept and process payments.

    • E-money issuance: Services that enable the storing of digital money in any currency for payment and transfer purposes.

    • Digital payment token (DPT) services: Services that facilitate the exchange and payment of digital payment tokens.

    • Money changing service: Buying or selling of foreign currency notes in Singapore.

    Types of MAS licences under the Payments Services Act 

    There are three types of licences to choose from. Each of which has its own criteria and requirements. This article will discuss each licence in detail to help you decide which is right for your company.

    • Money-changing Licence

    This Singapore MAS licence is for those who only conduct money-changing services, the service of buying and selling foreign currency notes. Individuals and corporations can obtain it, whether locally or foreignly owned.

    • Standard Payment Institution Licence

    This licence is issued to companies with approximately S$3 million in monthly transactions for any payment service, aside from e-money account issuance and money-changing services. Moreover, they need to have an estimated S$5 million in daily outstanding e-money. 

    • Major Payment Institution Licence

    This MAS licence is issued to companies with more than S$3 million in monthly transactions for any payment service, aside from e-money account issuance and money-changing services. Additionally, they need to have exceeded S$5 million in daily outstanding e-money.

    Who can apply for MAS License?

    • Money-changing Licence

    Any applicant for this Singapore MAS licence should have a minimum of 1 year’s relevant working or business experience full-time. They also need to decide what structure the business would be in, whether it is individually owned, a partnership or limited liability partnership (LLP), Singapore-owned, or a foreign-owned company. The type of business chosen will impact the governance requirements:

        • Individuals: The applicant must be a Singapore citizen for a sole proprietorship.

        • Partnership or LLP: The majority of its partners should be Singaporean citizens. In the case of a partnership formed between two people, only one needs to be a Singaporean citizen.

        • Singapore-owned company: Most of its shareholders and Board of Directors must be Singaporean citizens. If there are only two directors, only one must be a Singaporean citizen.

        • Foreign-owned company: The parent company of a subsidiary incorporated in Singapore must have a significant size, meaning it ranks as one of the top banks in the place of origin. Moreover, the parent company must possess a good track record and reputation, and be regulated and supervised by its home authority regarding Anti-Money Laundering and Combatting the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) practices.

      • Standard Payment Institution Licence and Major Payment Institution Licence

      The criteria to obtain either MAS licence are the same; the only difference is the minimum capital needed. The applicant must have a minimum capital  of S$100,000 for a standard payment institution licence and a S$250,000 minimum capital for a major payment institution licence:

          • The applicant must be a Singapore-incorporated company or a foreign corporation registered in Singapore.

          • The applicant must have a permanent place of business or a registered office.

          • The applicant’s board of directors should have either:

          • At least one executive director who is a Singapore citizen or Singapore permanent resident.

          • At least one non-executive director must be a Singapore citizen or permanent resident, and at least one executive director must hold a valid employment pass.

        What are the admission criteria?

        • Money-changing Licence

        When assessing an application for a licence, MAS considers several factors, such as the following:

            • The applicant’s fitness and propriety. Meanwhile, in the case of a corporation, partnership, or limited liability partnership, the fitness and propriety of its management.

            • The applicant’s financial condition; if the applicant happens to be a company, partnership, or limited liability partnership, its track record and financial performance in previous years.

            • The ownership and shareholding structure.

            • The qualifications and experience, particularly in operating AML/CFT practices.

            • The business plan and model, including AML/CFT policies and procedures.

            • Whether the public interest will be served by granting a licence.

          • Standard Payment Institution Licence and Major Payment Institution Licence

          Getting a money-changing licence is easier than getting either of these licences, as there are nine admission criteria, three more than for a money-changing licence. Regardless, they both share the same admission criteria, as follows:

              • The fitness and propriety of the controllers and directors.

              • The governance structure.

              • The qualifications and experience, particularly in operating a payment services business and compliance with regulatory requirements.

              • The financial condition and track record.

              • The business plan and model, including operational readiness.

              • The ability to comply with obligations under the PS Act, including compliance, safeguarding, technology risk management, and audit arrangements.

              • The regulatory status in other jurisdictions, where applicable.

              • For applicants with a holding company, a commitment to operations in Singapore.

              • Whether the public interest will be served by granting a licence.

            How to apply

            As a region that prides itself on being technology-savvy, MAS licence applications are done online via the MAS website. Applicants must fill in and submit Form 1 – Application for a Payment Service Provider Licence by logging in with their corporate Singpass.

            You can access the site here.

            How much are the MAS licence fees?

            All applicants are required to pay a non-refundable application fee. The applicable fees depending on the licence type and payment services applied for. The most affordable is surely the money-changing licence with S$500. Meanwhile, the fee breakdown for the standard payment institution licence and major payment institution licence can be seen in the table below.

            Activity Type                                                                    Standard Payment Institution                        Major Payment Institution                                           
            Account issuance service S$0 S$0
            Domestic money transfer service S$1,000 S$1,500
            Cross-border money transfer service S$1,000 S$1,500
            Merchant acquisition service S$1,000 S$1,500
            E-money issuance service S$1,000 S$1,500
            Digital payment token service S$1,000 S$1,500
            Money-changing service S$500 S$500

            Validity and renewal

            Once a Singapore MAS licence is obtained, it will remain valid until one of the following:

                • The licence is revoked by MAS due to issues such as not complying with the AML/CFT standards

                • The licence lapses in accordance with section 11(1) of the PS Act and regulation 10 of the Payment Services Regulations

                • The holder surrenders their licence.

              All entities that cease to hold a licence will be removed from the Financial Institutions Directory.

              Singapore is an attractive place for the fund management and financial services industry to conduct business, but remember that to be operational here, all economic entities must have a valid Singapore MAS licence. We hope this article will help you decide which licence is suitable for your business and help you understand the criteria and requirements needed, easing the process for you.

              Opt for Lanturn’s comprehensive corporate and fund services

              Experience a hassle-free journey by partnering with Lanturn for your corporate and fund requirements. We have a proven track record in answering every business need, from Singapore incorporation, and fund formation to assistance in acquiring a MAS licence so that financial institutions can conduct their business legally and smoothly in Singapore. Lanturn can also make your fundraising round easier.

              Get in touch with Lanturn’s experts today.

              Start the journey

              Speak with one of our experts to explore a tailored solution for your business

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