Of cynicism and skepticism

January 24, 2019

I can’t get enough of the topic of online banking. Shifting to e-commerce or for a not-so- technology savvy like me, remains way off my alley.

Undoubtedly, migrating to e-payments is the way to go now compared to the traditional brick-and-mortar banking, where trying to transfer money from one account to another can take an hour’s wait in line.

I sought out, on separate occasions, Bankers Association of the Philippines (BAP) Managing Director Ben Castillo and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Deputy Governor for Financial Supervisory Sector Chuchi Fonacier.

In a recently published BSP report, 46 percent of account holders showed ambivalence about e-payments, largely due to hacking, personal security breaches, and unsafe access issues. This is one of the main roadblocks hindering the large-scale adoption of e-payments.

The shift to digital banking will be an uphill climb. Enhanced Internet service is required. Along this line, BSP is supportive of the entry of a third telco player. As I still show skepticism due to fear of hacking, Ms. Chuchi erased my discomfort, assuring that the National Retail Payment System (NRPS) portal is backed-up by safeguards. Safety nets have been instituted.

Let me just veer away a bit, though still topic-related. This market watcher heard Smart Communications, the wireless subsidiary of PLDT, Inc., obtained the stamp of approval for providing its customers the best video service comparable to those of the United States and other advanced economies. OpenSignal, which evaluates the service performance of mobile service providers in Asia, gave Smart a score of 42.2, believed to be “above the national average.” I’m hooked to video watching – Korean telenova, “romcom” (romance-comedy) as millennials call it, and other TV series – Madam Secretary, You, and movies like the Crown, using my iPhone or iPadpro. Can’t wait what the third telco has to offer.

Mr. Ben assured that BAP’s 42-member banks are fully supportive of NRPS, the regulatory framework for BSP-supervised financial institutions aiming to establish a safe, efficient, and reliable retail payment system in the Philippines. It consists of electronic fund transfers that aim to move money around the Philippines as efficiently and quickly as possible—without the consumer even having to leave their homes.

My research showed that among the pioneers in this effort is Security Bank, which invested in a totally secure, world-class digital system that international financial institutions also use. Security Bank, on Its online platform – Digibanker – houses the Corporate Utility ePayment feature.
This online facility simplifies bill payments for companies, allowing its corporate clients to view their bills, keep track of their deadlines, check the status of their payments and other banking transactions in real-time, all on one convenient website.

Security Bank was also among the first banks to embrace BSP’s Instapay, a real-time, interbank electronic fund transfer service. Through this feature found on bank’s website and its mobile app, customers can instantly transfer funds from their accounts to other Instapay-participating banks, as well as non-bank e-money issuers in the country.

Heard from the business walls that international business magazine The Banker cited Security Bank as the “Bank of the Year“ for 2018. Its fourth award under this category, Security Bank was acknowledged for its efforts to deliver solid financial results while demonstrating prowess in developing products and services, employing new technologies.

Much still needs to be done to promote BSP’s advocacy of a cash-lite economy and to develop innovative digital banking. The skeptic in me realized that ultimately, the significance of the NRPS to us is not just in modernizing our banking practices. It is a way of reaching to millions of still-unbanked Filipinos and building bridges that allow faster, more convenient fund transfers around the archipelago.

At the end of our conversion, Ms. Chuchi was appreciative of the support to enlighten the people on the BSP initiative in order to achieve its objective to increase the use of e-payments by 20 percent by 2020. In a country with 67 million internet users, digital banking is a positive step to create a more inclusive economy.