BASIC deposit accounts (BDAs) opened in the first quarter of 2022 increased year on year, boosting efforts towards reaching the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ (BSP) target to bring more Filipinos into the formal financial system.   

BDAs climbed by 15.7% to 8.1 million in the first quarter of 2022 from seven million in the same period a year prior, based on the 2022 annual report for the National Strategy for Financial Inclusion (NSFI), the first since the launch of the six-year financial inclusion agenda.

As of this period, 145 banks offered this kind of bank account, up from the 136 banks in the first three months of 2021.

According to the NSFI annual report, one of the main strategies to boost financial inclusion is to make BDAs easy to own and meet the needs of the unbanked population.

“The BDA is a vital infrastructure component as it addresses many barriers to inclusion such as cost and a lack of identification documents,” the report said.

“With simplified identification requirements and a minimal deposit of just one hundred pesos, every Filipino can open an account through their nearest bank, cash agent, or even via mobile app,” it added.

The BDA was introduced in 2018 to address the needs of the unbanked and underserved Filipinos. This type of account has a low opening amount of P100, no maintaining balance requirement, no dormancy charges and a maximum balance of P50,000.

In January 2022, the BSP directed lenders to limit BDAs to one per depositor through Memorandum No. M-2022-003.

Meanwhile, the number of cash agents in convenience stores, pharmacies, pawnshops, and other retail outlets also expanded to over 58,417 cash agents and about 84,299 e-money agents in the country as of 2020.

“These agents enable financial institutions to serve a wider client base, particularly in low-income and rural areas, at a lower cost than setting up a full branch and deploying automated teller machines or ATMs. This translates to 95.5% of local government units with access to an agent,” the report said.

The Financial Inclusion Steering Committee (FISC) launched the NSFI 2022-2028 to serve as a blueprint in boosting financial inclusion.

“Much headway has been achieved through FISC initiative, with financial inclusion evolving from a regulator advocacy to a whole-of-government clarion call to ensure that no Filipino gets left behind,” former BSP Governor Felipe M. Medalla said in his foreword for the annual report.

Under the Digital Payments Transformation Roadmap, the BSP wants 70% of Filipino adults to have financial accounts and digitize 50% of total retail payments by the end of this year. — K.B. Ta-asan