Firm: More digital services to address financial access issues

By: Jose Santino S. Bunachita November 21,2018 - 10:09 PM

SMART PADALA PRESSCON/NOV.21,2018:Rolando ” Butch” Conejos Jr Associate Director explain to the media the SMART Padala Milyun-Milyong Tiwala during press conference at Circa 1900.(CDN PHOTO/LITO TECSON)

A LOT of Filipinos, especially in the province still have little to no access to financial services.

And with the continued thrust of the government towards a digital economy, these far-flung areas are at risk of being left behind even more.

According to the Inclusive Digital Finance Report released in 2017 by FINTQ, the financial technology arm of PLDT and Smart’s Voyager, more than 70 percent of provinces have medium to low access to formal financial services, effectively leaving them out of the growing digital economy.

In order to address this concern, mobile remittance brand Smart Padala is transitioning into providing more digital services through their thousands of partners all over the country by early next year.

Rolando Conejos Jr., associate director of PayMaya, said that they currently have 26,000 Smart Padala centers nationwide, most of which are sari-sari stores.

“We are dependent on the technology available on their areas. But we are eyeing to commit 50 percent of these centers will have more digital financial services,” he said during a launch in Cebu yesterday.

Smart Padala is a mobile remittance service under PayMaya Philippines, the digital financial services arm of Voyager Innovations which is backed by PLDT.

Currently, the 26,000 partners of Smart Padala only offer basic services including money remittances and load.

With plans to transform these partners into “community digital hubs,” they will be able to provide more financial services including bills payments, Add Money to PayMaya accounts, loans disbursement, and QR payments.

Since majority of their partners are sari-sari stores, Conejos said they see these additional digital services reaching far-flung communities and barangays located outside usual city centers.

In Cebu, Conejos estimated that 90 percent of the whole island is covered by at least one Smart Padala center per municipality, although much of the concentration is still within the Metro Cebu area.

More capital
Transitioning into a community digital hub will entail additional costs for these existing partners, though.

Since digital payment services act on a wallet-type process, these partners will have to load more into their accounts for them to be able to cater to bills payments and other financial services.

Ideally, Conejos said partners can invest an additional of between P40,000 to P50,000 to be able to efficiently provide more digital financial services.

The transformation will also depend on the availability of strong mobile data connections in their areas.

“Once there are remittance centers in a barangay or in an area, nagkakaroon ng economic activity since there is money coming in,” he added.

Aspiring entrepreneurs who want to start a Smart Padala business as value-added service for their existing businesses like sari-sari stores can easily do so as there is no franchise fee or bond needed.

Once complete business requirements have been submitted, the Smart Padala store can be built and operated in less than a week.

According to PayMaya Philippines Chief Operating Officer and Managing Director Paolo Azzola, Smart Padala is a critical ingredient in government efforts towards a “cashless” Philippines.

“Through our agent partners, Smart Padala continues to deliver crucial digital financial services that are accessible to Filipino up to the grassroots community level,” he said in a statement.

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