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The new champions of Open Finance in the Philippines

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As the country progresses into a digital economy, new champions have emerged to position Open Finance as a critical pillar that can bring financial inclusivity to millions of Filipinos.

Leaders in government, banking, fintech, and insurance discussed how they can empower the underserved and underbanked during the virtual stakeholder meeting and thanksgiving celebration hosted by World Fintech Festival (WFF), Digital Pilipinas Movement, and Fintech Philippines Association (FPH).

Wick Veloso, President of Philippine National Bank (PNB) and Philippine Bankers Association (PBA), stressed customer-centricity as a guiding principle of Open Finance to “allow banks and other financial providers to better serve their customers.” Jojo Malolos, President of digital bank GOTyme, affirmed the utmost importance of giving opportunities to each customer: “We have to be serious in penetrating the base of the pyramid, the unbanked, and really bank them … Imagine giving loans to farmers by just …  getting their consent to give out their data, you will be able to craft loans specifically for their needs.”

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Edison Tsai, Partner and Executive Director of SeedIn Technology, explained major benefits of Open Finance: “The first result is that it empowers consumers” by giving them better control over their financial data. Second, “it allows financial providers or third-party providers to better create solutions and services that are more catered to consumer needs.”

However, concerns on consumer data privacy and safety are always at the center of the discussion on Open Finance through which banks and other organizations can share customer information with third-party providers. In this environment, Veloso underscored that information should be shared only with the consent of the customers who remain the owners of their personal and financial data.

Commissioner Raymund Liboro of the National Privacy Commission (NPC) also emphasized that protecting their data privacy can strengthen consumers’ trust in companies. He said, “Our role, really is to promote trust,” placing importance on the sim card registration. He continues as “this will play a big role in ensuring that digital finance, open finance, and banking, will be relied more on trustworthy tools and implements.” He emphasized that should organizations succeed in obtaining trust, companies will flourish, creating jobs and opportunities that will lead to a more robust market. Dan Wolbert, VISA Philippines Country Manager, named the critical areas of data that should receive the most focus: “transparency to the data they are sharing; transparency on who might use that data; [the] purposes that data may be used and however long … and [that] they manage their data preference.”

Featured in one of the panels, Todd Schweitzer, CEO of Brankas, reiterated that it is essentially the “technology, products, and the policies that enable customers to securely access financial services from third party providers. They can choose how and where they would access it, and to whom they can share their data securely.” The decoupling of the financial service provider from its access point allows financial services to combine their products to become building blocks for Open Finance.

Other leaders shared how they succeeded in branching out into Open Banking. Noel Santiago, Chief Digital Officer of Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), said that their early attempts to encourage customers to top up their toll fee wallets had “almost zero transaction volume back in 2018.” Soon, the uptake that was magnified by the pandemic garnered more than 300,000 transactions per day, while creating a synergistic system with the banks that benefit the consumers.

According to Lawrence Ferrer, President of Bayad Center, the pandemic was a game-changer in their continuing integration of Open Finance with their payment services. He acknowledged, “There was a significant shift towards going online. One of the things that I personally took charge of was developing different digital solutions that would cater to our customers.” Their research showed that payment of bills and loans were their clients’ priorities.

The Open Finance Oversight Committee (OFOC), the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas-led initiative supported by the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), can accelerate Open Finance development. Gorriceta Law Managing Partner Atty. Mark Gorriceta described it as “the transition group that will lead the implementation of initiatory and transition-related activities pertaining to the establishment of a formal structure. [It will also] formulate policies pertaining to Open Finance.”

The new champions of Open Finance in the Philippines
First Row: National Privacy Commissioner Raymund Liboro
Second Row, From L: Noel Santiago, Bank of the Philippine Islands Chief Digital Officer; Todd Schweitzer, Brankas CEO; and Wick Veloso, Philippine National Bank and Bankers Association of the Philippines President
Third Row, From L: Dan Wolbert, VISA Country Manager for the Philippines; Jojo Malolos, GOTyme President; and Amor Maclang, Digital Pilipinas Convenor & FPH Executive Director
Fourth Row, From L: Lawrence Ferrer, Bayad Center President; Jove Tapiador, FPH Co-founder & Trustee; and Mark Gorriceta, Managing Partner of Gorriceta Law & FPH Trustee
Bottom Row, From L: Edison Tsai, SeedIn Technology Partner/Executive Director & FPH Trustee; Ida Tiongson, FPH Trustee; and Host, RJ Ledesma

Schweitzer, as the Director of Open Banking Exchange Asia, said that the Philippines is taking a “balanced approach to Open Finance” and that the BSP, through the OFOC, is “setting guidelines on basic technical operational standards” while remaining technology agnostic to allow space for innovation. He added that Open Finance and the OFOC “encourage financial institutions and technology service providers to get a step ahead” by participating in industry pilots and sandboxes.

He also looked forward to the collaboration among the leaders that can come out of the celebration as the new year approaches: “Open Finance and its technology are ultimately about providing more services to customers, especially those who rarely have access to them. Financial inclusivity can and will make this nation move forward.”

Amor Maclang, Digital Pilipinas Convenor and FPH Executive Director, also remarked that laying the foundation for Open Finance transformation is a fintech which she described as “not a vertical but a horizontal that powers various industries” while creating a seamless interaction across sectors. The Digital Pilipinas movement advocates technology to solve pervading national issues and improve the Filipino quality of life.

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