RUSSIA-BASED Tinkoff Bank plans to invest heavily in the Philippines once it receives a digital banking license from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), a top official told The Manila Times on Monday.

George Chesakov, Tinkoff Bank's chairman of the board, said during a roundtable with The Times that the fully online bank decided to expand in other areas after its success in Russia.

"We decided to look at Southeast Asia because everybody was telling us all the drivers are here. We decided to start in the Philippines because it's a great market... It's a great country to be in," Chesakov said.

Tinkoff submitted its digital banking application to the BSP in late August, he said, "so if things go well, license-wise, we would be ready to launch early next year."

Chesakov said the London Stock Exchange-listed company has raised the required capital of $20 million for a digital bank in the Philippines.

"We can actually move fast with additional investment," he said.

"We believe in our strengths. I think we are one of the best contestants for this kind of license, worldwide, not only in the Philippines, due to our experience, size and technological prowess," Chesakov said.

According to its profile on the London Stock Exchange website, Tinkoff has over 13 million customers. In terms of active clients, it is Russia's third-largest retail bank.

It has no physical branches and serves all of its customers through online channels and a cloud-based call center.

Digital banks in the Philippines must have a minimum capitalization of P1 billion and are subject to the requirements set by the BSP. These include governance and risk management, particularly on information technology and cybersecurity; outsourcing; consumer protection; and anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism.

They must maintain a head office in the Philippines to serve as the main point of contact for stakeholders.

Overseas Filipino Bank, Tonik Bank, UnoBank, Union Digital Bank and GoTyme have all received digital banking licenses from the Bangko Sentral.

The central bank closed the window for new digital bank applications, including converting banks, last September 1 to maintain a stable and competitive banking environment.

The moratorium, which limits the number of digital banks in the country to seven, will last for three years.