As the Founder / Editor of Back End News, Marlet Salazar covers stories about enterprise technology. Marlet has been in the Philippine media industry for over 20 years. We caught up with her to get her thoughts about FinTech in the Philippines.
When it comes to FinTech, there has been a lot of promise, some might even say hot air, about its potential. How much has FinTech lived up to its hype in the Philippines? Do you think this will continue or change?
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas reported that there was a 5,000% surge in digital payments during the pandemic, and this was driven primarily by the use of e-wallets and online payments. If that is any indication, then yes, I believe that FinTech not only lived up to but surpassed the hype.
We cannot emphasise enough how the pandemic accelerated digital adoption and that includes FinTech. According to a PayPal study released in November 2020, the majority of Filipino respondents used digital payments to pay for bills (44%) and groceries (36%). PayMaya said its app users reached 28 million in 2020 across platforms, while GCash said its transactions are seen to double to P2-trillion this year.
But FinTech is not only about payments. There are loan apps partnering with e-commerce sites to boost consumer spending. Then there are cross-border payments, which are already gaining traction in other Asia Pacific countries. Not to mention investing which any individual can do now with an app (GCash and Bonds.ph).
I can go on and on about FinTech products and services that were launched during the pandemic. But it is also important to note that FinTech was already abuzz with activities before, the pandemic accelerated its adoption.
Yes, I believe it will continue as consumers realised the convenience of cashless transactions. There will still be challenges. The market may be saturated with too many products, but it is also helpful because competition brings out the best in brands. And it will also give consumers choices.
What is one area of FinTech that you think deserves more attention and buzz?
This may not be mainstream, but I think personal finance should be explored more. Yes, we are not encouraging people to spend, that's what brands want, but I believe if we are really aiming for financial literacy, this is one way to teach people how to save or invest on top of the ease of paying bills using apps.
If people can learn how to save then invest, we will have more, even if small, investors in the country. We keep telling people to save, but the investment is one way to earn more, right? If an ordinary worker can spare Php 50 and invest it, no matter how small the earnings, it is still earnings. There is no need to talk to financial advisors and look at spreadsheets just to know if you earned or not.
If you could interview anyone at all in the FinTech world, who would it be and why?
Not really on FinTech but in finance. The late BSP Governor Nestor A. Espenilla, Jr. He was the champion of financial inclusion. His call for financial inclusion became the battle cry of FinTech companies and banks when they launch new services. I find it noble and admirable for him to think of the unbanked. He mobilised the private sector to serve those in the countryside or urban dwellers who cannot open their own bank accounts.
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