Moving toward an integrated financial system

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Besides improving in terms of inclusive growth, the Philippines is also moving closer towards its goal of attaining a secured, cashless and inter-operational financial system.

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Late last month, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr. announced that they have approved the merger between two of the country’s major automated teller machine (ATM) operators, BancNet and Megalink.

The move was acknowledged as a breakthrough by the central bank, which has long been working on the establishment of an integrated National Retail Payment System that would facilitate cheaper and more efficient inter-operational monetary transactions.

The merger between the two ATM giants is projected to pave the way for greater financial coverage and accessibility for consumers. In effect, Filipinos will soon be able to transact at ATMs of all participating banks at a much lower cost.

As for rural bank clients, this would likewise mean being able to conveniently tap not only the 450 ATMs of rural banks, but the entire network of over 16,000 BSP-regulated ATMs available nationwide.

In the recently concluded 2015 Annual Management Conference of the Confederation of Central Luzon Rural Banks, Rural Bankers Association of the Philippines President Jose Misael B. Moraleda cited the merger as one of the industry developments that banks look forward to. He said the deal will “benefit both the banks and their clients as it ensures cheaper and smoother business flow among different financial networks.”

Besides lowering the cost, such development also fortifies the foundation of a cashless society, where transactions using e-money and cash cards are more dominant and preferred.

Dealing with cash transactions has proven to be quite risky for the public, considering the incidence of bank clients falling victim to perpetrators of card skimming, fraud and theft.

Based on the BSP data on financial inclusion, Filipinos are showing signs of inclination to
shift to a cashless system. In 2013, the number of e-money accounts rose 34 percent to 26.7 million, while e-money transactions surged by almost 60 percent to 217 million.

It is clear that the evolving landscape has introduced several regulatory reforms that pose challenges to financial institutions. The upside, however, is that it also brought it fresh developments such as the integration of ATMs networks, which is bound to create a better domestic payment system for all financial consumers.

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