• Digital banking in the countryside

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    The influence of mobile devices and wireless networks in this day and age already goes beyond bridging the communication gap between people. Today, technology also plays a vital role in efficiently conducting banking transactions and in improving banking services.

    Acknowledging this, the Rural Bankers Association of the Philippines (RBAP) supports the call of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) on the establishment of electronic retail payments systems to expand the reach of financial services and to improve the savings habit among Filipinos.

    In 2008, RBAP and Microenterprise Access to Banking Services (MABS) pioneered the use of mobile technology to deliver microfinance services to the countryside.

    Through the Mobile money-enabled debit cards, such as GCashDebit cards and Smart Money MasterCard, deposits, withdrawals, loans, loan and bill payments, remittances, salary disbursements, and mobile commerce opportunities for small-scale merchants, were made possible. It offered not only the convenience of accessing Automated Teller Machines but also made cashless purchases possible in tens of thousands of Point of Sale merchants nationwide.

    According to an RBAP-MABS report, by end of June 2012, the number of rural banks branches that were accredited to offer mobile banking services using GCash and Smart Money has reached 1,171, while registered mobile phone banking clients numbered almost 400,000. Also, the rural banking industry has generated 3 million mobile phone banking transactions, valued at P17 billion.

    Recently, RBAP also partnered with telecommunications giant Philippine Long Distance Co. (PLDT) and its unit Voyager Innovations to ramp up rural banks’ participation in the digital world.

    Lendr, a mobile application that will serve as an online loans ‘marketplace,’ aggregates all consumer loan products of participating banks into one service without banks having to create their own website or mobile banking app.

    Anyone can apply any time whenever he or she needs money for emergencies, minor house repairs, or school tuition via SMS, mobile app, or online with any device or telecommunications provider.

    Consumers are in full control, as they can keep track of their loan application status, loan repayments, and amortization schedule.

    The digital partnership will enable and optimize the reach of rural banks, and at the same time, empower customers who want to avail of loans to make informed decisions as to the best offers and competitive interest rates by just checking out Lendr via their mobile phones or devices, said Lito Villanueva, vice president and head of Fintech, Digital Inclusion, and Alliances at Voyager Innovations.

    With the latest innovations, banking transactions that are conventionally done in physical banking offices and at the mercy of long queues will surely revolutionize into a faster, more efficient one. People will be encouraged to learn financial management and later on transact with banks. Ultimately, the unbanked and underbanked sectors will soon be integrated under the umbrella “financial inclusion.”

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