- Digital business account
- Open an account in 5 minutes
- Make payments in 50+ currencies
- Mid-market exchange rate
- Link to your accounting software
- Connect to Stripe, PayPal, Shopify, Lazada, Shopee
- Lines of credit and term loans
For a long time, small and medium businesses in Singapore didn’t have a real alternative to big banks and their often expensive and rigid business accounts and loans. Luckily, the banking market is opening up, and today we’re reviewing a Singaporean challenger bank and app by the name Aspire.
In a nutshell, Aspire business accounts are easy to open online, they have no minimum deposit, annual fees, or local transaction fees, and all other fees are transparent. With other specialties like their incorporating service and fast credit lines, Aspire really is SME’s little helper.
Aspire is a Singapore-based digital bank that specializes in business accounts for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). It was founded in 2018 by Andrea Baronchelli (CEO) and Giovanni Casinelli (CTO).
Baronchelli, who previously worked for Alibaba’s Lazada e-commerce platform for four years, launched Aspire to close the gap left by the traditional banks’ that focused on consumer services or businesses that make more than $10 million in revenue a year.
Aspire is now a unified financial operating system for SMEs that combines a bank account, credit card, invoicing, and expense software.
Aspire currently operates in Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, and Vietnam but for the sake of this review, we’ll be covering their domestic market Singapore only.
What is so special about Aspire?
Aspire’s main principle is to make business financing quick and simple.
So rather than stacks of paperwork, SME owners simply fill out online forms and get a response the same day. Most of the application and review processes are automated using their in-house assessment engine before a human makes the final decision on whether to accept the application or not.
Aspire wants to complete the application process in a record time giving SMEs a quick decision without too much paperwork.
Pros & cons
- Multi-user access
- No monthly fees or minimum deposit
- Expense management
- Automated accounting
- Access to credit and loans
- No physical card yet
- No cash or cheque deposits
Who can open an Aspire account?
Any business can open an Aspire account if it is incorporated in Singapore. Restrictions do apply for some business types.
If you still don’t have a company there, Aspire offers the option to incorporate through them. The incorporation packages start from S$299 for local directors and S$2840 for foreign directors.
How to open an Aspire business account?
Opening an Aspire business account is usually straightforward but you will need some documents of course in order to verify you and your business.
You will need to give Aspire:
- Your name and ID number
- Your email and mobile
- Your business name, UEN, entity type, size,
- Description of your business activity or the address of your website
- A picture of your identification document (national ID or passport)
- A live selfie
To register, visit their website and do these 3 steps:
- Fill in the director details
- Fill in your business details
- Verify your identity with a selfie or with MyInfo
- No monthly fees
- Free Fast Transfers
- Outbound transfers with Wise: Mid-market rate + Standard Wise fee
- 0.5% inbound transfer fee
- 0.7% fees on FX payments with Visa
If you’re not a solopreneur, you probably have a team of people working for you (and with you). For them, you can create their own logins and virtual cards. Set specific access roles for each employee so there are no crossing boundaries.
Of course, you can get real-time spending notifications and set flexible daily, monthly or card spend limits that your team can track in order to stay within budget.
Aspire is only offering a virtual debit card that is linked to your business account. There’s no physical card as of yet, but there are also no annual fees, minimum spending, or hidden charges. You’ll spend at the visa rate, with a 0.7% fee.
You can also create unlimited virtual cards for your employees and teammates or per use case, for example per merchant or account.
By using your Aspire Visa card, you’ll get 1% cashback for spending on digital marketing with Facebook Ads, Google Ads, and Linkedin Ads. There’s also a 1% cashback for spending money on SaaS tools such as AWS, Shopify, Slack, Salesforce, Xero, Hubspot, Active Campaign, Mailchimp, and a few others.
You can also submit a request for a service that you use on a regular basis.
Aspire offers integration with third-party apps that make your everyday life easier. To help with accounting, Aspire app connects to your accounting software so you don’t have to manually match transactions.
It also connects your Aspire card to your mobile payments like Google and Apple Pay and you can receive payouts directly into your account from e-commerce and payment platforms like PayPal, Lazada, Shopee, Shopify, and of course, Stripe.
When you open an Aspire account, you get access to “over S$50,000 worth of exclusive benefits from our platform partners”.
The partners include companies from legal, e-commerce, finance, accounting, cloud, telecommunications, marketing, operations, and talent acquisition.
Some of the rewards are S$20k waived by Stripe, 20% off Shopee ads, $5k credit from AWS, $2,250 off Shopify Plus, $100 off Google Ads, 90% Discount with Hubspot, 40% off on Dropbox, and many others.
Aspire Kickstart incorporation
Packages for local directors:
- Kickstart (Incorporation only)
- Kickstart Plus (Incorporation + Corporate Secretary)
Packages for foreign directors:
- Remote Startup (For Directors who want to work remotely)
- Singapore-based Startup (For Directors who want to work in Singapore)
Aspire is offering a tailormade solution to opening a business in Singapore from anywhere in the world. They will register your business, get you an Aspire business account, and access to corporate advisory, plus you’ll even get some incentive in form of rewards.
The process is completely done online and they promise that it will be finished on the same day If you have all the documents at hand.
Who can start a company in Singapore?
Any local or foreign person above 18 can register a Singapore company according to the Singapore Companies Act. You don’t have to be physically present in Singapore.
What documents do I need for Kickstart?
Local directors will need the following documents:
- Company name
- Structure of your company & due diligence (including names, email addresses, phone numbers, and identity documents)
- A total number of shares and shareholding percentage
- Paid-up capital
- Business activity
- Financial year-end
- Registered office address
Foreign Directors will need everything but the registered office address.
Incorporation process and how long it takes
Aspire’s incorporation process can be done in a day if you have all the papers handy. You’ll also get their business account at the same time.
The whole process starts with you choosing a package and filling out the form. One of their specialists should then reach out to you to guide you through the process. Once your business has been incorporated, you’ll get your Aspire business account and you can make transactions straightaway.
Aspire credit solutions
This is how Aspire got started – by focusing on fast SME lending. Their credit lines range from S$10,000 to S$1,000,000, with rates starting as low as 1% per month.
Their financing products include:
- Term loans
- Revolving line of credit
- Reverse factoring
- Trade financing
- Customized credit solutions
What are the benefits of an Aspire credit line? You get to grow your company without giving up equity to investment firms, you get a full repayment schedule available before drawdown, you can sell your trade invoices to Aspire for immediate cash and there are no obligations to draw. Pay the interest only on drawn funds and save if/when you repay early.
So, who can apply for a loan or a credit line?
- A business that is incorporated in Singapore
- Has a minimum 6 months of operations
- And the applicant must be a director
You also must have an existing Aspire account in order to complete the Credit Limit Application in the credit menu. The documents needed are:
- Scanned copy of IDs of all directors of the company
- Bank statements for all corporate accounts for the last 6 months
- Financial statement of the last 2 fiscal years (or draft of the management accounts or of the income statement & balance sheet if financial statements are not yet final)
To check the status of your application, log in to your Aspire account and select “Credit” in the sidebar to see the latest status of your application.
Aspire’s processing fee is 1-4% on the amount withdrawn with interest rates from 1% to 3.9%.
How is Aspire regulated?
Aspire is currently exempt from holding a license to provide payment services in Singapore under the Payment Services Act. They’re not a bank and don’t hold a banking license.
Is my money safe with Aspire?
Same as other e-money institutions that aren’t regulated as banks, Aspire keeps your money – your deposit, in a segregated account in a reputable big bank so that you can get it back in case something were to happen to Aspire as a company.
For instance, if they went bankrupt or insolvent, your money should be safe and paid back by that tier-1 bank where it’s being kept.
In a more day-to-day manner, your money is being kept safe by implementing security features such as two-factor authentication, virtual cards, creating dedicated cards and employee logins, etc.
Who owns Aspire?
Aspire was founded in 2018 by serial entrepreneurs Andrea Baronchelli (CEO) and Giovanni Casinelli (CTO).
Baronchelli has a financial and technology background and was previously EVP and Chief Marketing Officer of Lazada (Alibaba Group), at Lazada in Singapore. Casinelli was a founder or co-founder of BonAppetour, CryptoJobs, and Meteor.link.
The company had 3 funding rounds with a total of $41.5 million raised. Pioneer Fund, Arc Labs, Hummingbird Ventures, Beacon Venture Capital, and Picus Capital are among some of its 14 investors.
Singapore’s digital banking space has only started heating up as four companies (consortiums really) were granted digital banking licenses at the end of 2020.
Singtel & Grab and Sea Limited (parent company of Shopee) won full digital banking license and Greenland consortium and Ant Financial won the digital wholesale banking license (business accounts).
As you can see, 2021/2022 will be a great year for people and businesses in Singapore.
The bottom line
For such a young company, Aspire has made quite a few breakthroughs and has expanded all over Southeast Asia. What has started as a two-man operation has grown into an expanding team.
Aspire is a good business account for any small or medium company in Singapore with no monthly fees, cashbacks, valuable rewards, unlimited virtual cards for you and your team, and integrations with accounting tools for easy invoicing and expense tracking.
Until there are more contenders in the next few years, Aspire is the best bet for startups, entrepreneurs, and e-commerce companies.