Filipinos becoming digital natives amid pandemic


The COVID-19 pandemic is turning Filipinos into “digital natives” as they resort to electronic payment systems to manage transactions.

A survey conducted by global analytics firm FICO showed that 76 percent of Filipinos are receptive to opening an online account for credit cards, personal loans and other financial needs and transactions. Twenty-six percent also said they prefer opening online accounts via smartphones – higher than the United States (18 percent) and the United Kingdom (25 percent).

Digital or e-payments have increased while the volume and value of check payments and ATM withdrawals have declined especially during the enhanced community quarantine period, noted the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

Regulatory initiatives like the National Retail Payment System (NRPS) have bolstered digital payments, enhancing the speed, affordability and convenience of financial transactions particularly with PESONet and Instapay, which are electronic funds transfer (EFT) services by BSP-supervised financial institutions.

BSP data shows PESONet transactions are now at P240 billion, or up 356 percent from the P52.76-billion transactions posted during November 2017 when PESONet was launched. As of June 2020, e-payment transactions from PESONet and Instapay surged to P340.9 billion.

BSP had ordered banks and financial institutions to boost the capabilities of their digital channels to address the increasing need for online payment and other financial transactions, with fintech players also encouraged to support the Philippines’ bid to shape “a new economy that is more resilient, inclusive and technology-enabled.”

One of the top banks that has seen a surge in its digital banking business amid the pandemic is the Yuchengco-led Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC), named “Best Digital Bank in the Philippines” by the Annual Alpha Southeast Asian Best FI Awards.

According to RCBC chairperson Helen Yuchengco Dee, the situation has “brought to light the advantage of digital solutions,” adding that the right digital investments made by RCBC has prepared them for the worst of the crisis.

“We are not yet out of the woods of a contracting local economy,” says Lito Villanueva, executive vice president and chief innovation and inclusion officer of RCBC.

However, the award affirms that the bank is “on the right track in bringing Filipinos to the fold of financial security with the help of technology. More relevant and responsive digital solutions will be unveiled this year as we face a better normal,” Villanueva assured.

Diokno projects that half of retail payment transactions will shift to digital in three years, with 70 percent of adult Filipinos having a transaction account by July 2023.

While the pandemic brought disruptions across various sectors and industries, it has presented opportunities for the banking industry and Filipinos to adapt to the new normal of digitized transactions and services as BSP intensifies efforts towards financial inclusion and digital transformation.

About the Writer
Bing Parel

Bing Parel is a Senior Vice President for the Editorial Department of WSP Incorporated, a Filipino-owned communications firm. In her past life, she was a travel magazine writer and associate editor for a glossy, and was also involved in the national campaign of a presidential candidate. She describes herself as a domestic diva on weekends and confesses that one of her frustrations is the inability to solve a Rubik’s Cube despite her teenage son’s patient encouragement and tutorial attempts.

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