U.S.-based Circle Internet Financial Ltd., the issuer of the USDC stablecoin that has a market capitalization of more than US$43 billion, said it has received in-principle approval to offer digital payment token products and other services in Singapore.

The approval is for a Major Payments Institution License granted by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), the city state’s central bank. It will also allow Circle to also provide cross-border and domestic money transfer services in Singapore, the company said in a statement emailed to Forkast

“This enables us to work with all relevant stakeholders and demonstrate the potential of digital currencies, open payment systems and innovation-forward fintech regulations to drive economic growth and strengthen Singapore’s position as a global hub for digital assets,” Dante Disparte, Circle’s Chief Strategy Officer and Global Head of Public Policy, said in the statement.

MAS has recently accelerated approvals for crypto service providers, while tightening regulations as it seeks to emerge as a “responsible” hub for cryptocurrencies and other digital assets in Asia. Paxos, issuer of the USDP stablecoin, also announced today it has received a license to operate in Singapore.

The moves come as Hong Kong, Singapore’s traditional rival in Asia for financial services, this week announced a series of policies to attract digital asset investment. 

In October alone, Singapore granted in-principle approvals to Coinbase, the largest U.S. cryptocurrency exchange, as well as Blockchain.com, another exchange. Both said they would focus on institutional and corporate clients in Singapore following the central bank’s statements that crypto trading is too high risk for non-professional investors.

Circling Asia

Circle previously identified Singapore as its principal hub in Asia and said it would continue to hire people in the city state for its regional business.

“We look forward to more collaborations with MAS to support the thriving crypto and blockchain ecosystem as well as the advancement of fintech innovation in Singapore,” said Jeremy Allaire, Co-Founder and CEO of Circle. 

Circle describes itself as a global financial technology firm that enables businesses to use digital currencies and public blockchains for payments, commerce and financial applications. Its board includes officials from traditional finance, including Goldman Sachs, Ernst & Young and UBS. 

Circle winning the license in Singapore is a step in building out an Asia strategy to serve markets in Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan and other countries in the region, said Disparte in an interview with Forkast at the Singapore Fintech Festival (SFF). He and Allaire are speakers at the event, which runs November 2-4. 

“This allows us to now really contemplate a growth strategy and investment strategy and an operational strategy in which I would hope and expect that the Singaporean operation sort of has an addressable market of substantial scale in size given the prevalence of digital assets in Asia,” he said.

Beside the USDC stablecoin backed by the U.S. dollar, Circle is also the issuer of the EUROC stablecoin backed by the Euro. 

The 7th edition of SFF, the first in-person since 2019, is organized by the Monetary Authority of Singapore in collaboration with the Association of Banks in Singapore. 

It is happening at the same time as the Hong Kong Fintech Week, further illustrating the rivalry between the two financial centers to become the leader in Asia for blockchain, cryptocurrency and other digital asset investment and technology.