Digital finance is for everyone

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The COVID-19 crisis has consumed us. While a lot of it is out of our control, how we are able to respond and help others through this will define us.

A few of us have spent the last five years pushing consumers and businesses to shift to digital, and the last couple of months have accelerated this move more than ever before.

A digital lifestyle app like GCash has been able to help Filipinos through this unprecedented disruption in daily life.

During this time, there has been a surge in active users transacting with higher frequency across a diverse set of daily life use cases.

The starting point is topping up a prepaid mobile connection or internet access at home on the app, that you can do without paid data on your smartphone.

Paying bills at home instead of going to a Bayad Center, or paying anyone by sending money in real time, is convenient for informal buying and selling online or sending money to family members in the provinces.

The ability to move money from your bank to your e-wallet through InstaPay or directly from select banks in-app has been more convenient than walking into a convenience store or to a loading machine at this time.

As consumers found themselves restricted on shopping, dining, and entertainment options, and businesses looked for alternative ways to reach them, GCash has been helpful to pay online on Lazada or for food and grocery delivery.

For those who have to step out to visit a Puregold supermarket or 7-Eleven convenience store, a contactless payment experience is now possible. Paying for games and entertainment on the Google Play Store or Apple App Store for people staying at home is also now easier.

Beyond mobile payments, platforms like GCash solve the problem of access to financial services. Maintaining a healthy GScore over time has helped consumers use their GCredit line to pay bills or at select merchants, as cashflow is impacted for wage earners and small businesses.

As some tend to spend less because they go out less, the GSave account offers the highest interest rate with no minimum maintaining balance. For those who look for safe haven investment opportunities, the Money Market Fund has an entry point as low as P50.

An increasing number of people are also looking to protect themselves with insurance, including for potential COVID-19 hospitalization. The platform is now relevant in helping financial institutions, including banks, lenders, and insurance companies, access the larger population efficiently.

For a whole new segment that was using a payment app for the first time, the focus has been on demystifying the process and using facial and identity recognition technology to make it easy to get started. The GCash app now consistently appears among the top trending apps in the country across categories, with the likes of TikTok and Zoom.

Every business, large or small, needs to do its part for the community at this time. GCash was in a position to enable donations of millions of pesos through a “Fight COVID-19” campaign.

Government entities like the Department of Social Welfare and Development and local government units like Makati and several other city governments are using GCash to disburse relief funds to displaced workers and citizens in their areas. Here’s where being a cash-driven economy has slowed us down.

In a survey administered to 1.7 million people on how they preferred to receive funds, close to 70 percent still preferred to receive this in cash or through a cash outlet like a traditional remittance center. Of the rest, GCash was a preferred mode for more than half the respondents, and preference for wallets as a category accounted for more than twice that of banks, clearly filling a gap.

The last couple of months feel like the Philippines is near tipping point toward digital payment adoption, which should bring us all closer to the goal of finance for all.

Anthony Thomas is outgoing CEO of Mynt, the owner of GCash, and is now chair of MoMo, Vietnam’s leading e-wallet and payment company. He remains an adviser to the Mynt/GCash board.

Business Matters is a project of the Makati Business Club (makatibusinessclub@mbc.com.ph).

Posted on 30 May 2020 under Business Matters section of The Philippine Daily Inquirer