ING Bank N.V. will support five local financial technology or fintech startups with equity-free investments and technical and business mentorship for a year under a program with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

ING said in a statement on Wednesday that the assistance is part of its “Fintech for Impact” initiative with UNICEF launched in the Philippines last year, which aims to upgrade the skills of the youth to help in alleviating poverty through digital tools and solutions from fintech startups.

“Financial services have been expanding quickly. Digital financial platforms allow for wider financial services, while providing social protection,” ING Philippines Country Manager Hans B. Sicat was quoted as saying. “This is why we have partnered with UNICEF to help develop fintech solutions by providing an equity-free investment, and mentoring early-stage open source startups in the Philippines.”

UNICEF estimates there are nine million Filipinos living below the poverty line. In 2019, the Philippine government considered a household of five members below the poverty threshold if it earned less than P10,481 monthly.

“They not only suffer from poor health and nutrition but also miss out on opportunities later in life such as education, training, work, and entrepreneurial opportunities. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these existing challenges for the most vulnerable,” UNICEF Philippines Representative Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov said.

Among the five new beneficiaries is Agrabah which links farmers and fisherfolks to buyers. Meanwhile, BeamAndGo helps overseas Filipino workers manage their remittances to boost the total income of their families.

Another startup is Educ4All which offers financial literacy courses and educational loans.

On the other hand, Reach52 provides microinsurance and health products to rural communities.

Last is Saphron which also offers the underprivileged sector low-cost insurance products and investment opportunities through its artificial intelligence technology.

Global research firm Startup Genome said the local fintech industry can grow transactions by 24% at the end of the year. It said fintech firms currently comprise 15% of the Philippine startup sector. — KKTJ