By Aditya Banerjee
This is the first of a four part series of articles about the RBAP-MABS National Roundtable 2012 Conference panel session entitled “Using New Channels to Expand Microfinance Services.”
Mr. Paolo Baltao from Globe Telecommunications, Craig Tower from Microfinance Opportunities, Jun Perez of SEEDFinance, and Melvin Joy Yu from Cantilan Bank delivered a series of presentations on using new branchless banking technologies to expand microfinance services in the Philippines.
Mr. Baltao announced Globe G-Xchange Inc.’s (GXI) next generation GCASH mobile money services, which are expected to provide new features as well as create a more seamless experience for rural bank clients and GCASH users.
First, GLOBE delivered a presentation on the features of the GCASH Powerpay+ Card – an ATM card for banks wanting to offer improved mobile money-enabled payroll services for local companies in their areas. The new service not only provides payroll recipients with an ATM card linked to the GCASH wallet but also bundles life, accidental death, burial, ATM theft and residential fire insurance coverage. The card can be customized for the rural banks wishing to offer payroll services, thereby giving rural banks the chance to compete with larger commercial banks. In addition, the employees using the service will have two free Bancnet or Megalink ATM withdrawals a month.
Next, Mr. Baltao revealed the latest smartphone applications that can be used on any Android, Blackberry, or iPhone. See related article. These new application dramatically enhance the user experience by bringing much easier to use functionality to using GCASH. Since everything will be menu or touch screen enabled. “If you enjoy doing something, you’ll do it again,” Mr. Baltao confidently noted. Based on this premise, GXI’s new smartphone application aims to make financial transactions enjoyable, simple and easy. The new features also allow users to transfer money to Facebook contacts, which will automatically send the recipient a private message, or to contacts on your phone list.
In addition, Mr. Baltao also cited a unique partnership with American Express (AMEX), which will be a game changer for mobile payments overseas. As revealed by Mr. Baltao, the new GCASH-AMEX partnership will allow rural bank clients who are GCASH users to purchase products directly from the United States or the United Kingdom and have them shipped to the Philippines, giving them substantial savings compared to buying locally. And the options are limitless – from TVs through Best Buy, to books on Amazon, to clothes from an online store – the new GCASH-AMEX partnership allows users to make significant purchases using their mobile wallet. Even smartphone apps from iTunes or the Android Market can be purchased using GCASH without the need to have a credit card. For more on this unique offer click here.
Mr. Baltao cited three reasons for the development of a new and robust smartphone application: 1) based on statistics, 65% of all new phones purchased in the Philippines last year were smartphones; 2) basic smartphones can now be purchased at a reasonable price of PhP 3,000 – 4,000; and 3) that users no longer have to only use SMS as the primary channel for transaction, which has vast limitations. Now that the smartphone market has expanded significantly, developing applications is the next innovative step needed to bring new services and products.
The USAID-supported Rural Bankers Association of the Philippines Microenterprise Access to Banking Services (RBAP-MABS) program in partnership with GXI has assisted more than 70 rural banks with more than 1,100 branches and other banking offices to become accredited to make use of GCASH to facilitate mobile money enabled banking transactions. These banks have already processed more than PhP 16 billion ($363 million) in GCASH enabled banking transactions. With the significant increase in mobile money enabled banking transactions during the first four months of this year, rural banks are now projected to process more than PhP 7. 5 billion ($175 million) in transactions in 2012.
To highlight the successful use of the RBAP-MABS program’s mobile phone banking services, the following video was also shown during the 2012 National Roundtable Conference: