In 2002, as The Edge Singapore printed its first 40 issues, the banking sector was experiencing an upheaval of sorts. In 1999, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) introduced the qualifying full bank (QFB) licence. QFBs have greater branching privileges than other foreign banks. They are allowed to conduct a full range of banking businesses permitted under the Banking Act, including retail deposit-taking. Some 10 QFB licences have been awarded to date.

In order to meet the QFB challenge, local banks had to merge to become stronger. From five listed banks, local banks shrank in numbers to just three listed banks, DBS Group Holdings, Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp (OCBC) and United Overseas Bank (UOB).

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