THE OVERSEAS Filipino Bank (OFBank) obtained a digital banking license from the Monetary Board (MB) on March 25, making it the first official digital-only bank in the country, the Department of Finance (DoF) reported.

OFBank started its operations in June 2020 using its existing license to operate as a thrift bank, before receiving the country’s first digital banking license last month, the DoF said in a statement on Sunday.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) issued the rules and regulations for digital banking license through Circular No. 1105 for banks that want to set up branchless and digital-only banks in the country. OFBank applied in February to convert its thrift bank license to that of a digital bank.

The lender is wholly owned by state-led Land Bank of the Philippines and was established in September 2017.

“This milestone in the country’s banking history not only fulfills President Duterte’s campaign pledge to create a bank that caters to overseas Filipinos, but will also help the Philippines leapfrog to the digital economy,” Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said in a statement over the weekend.

OFBank currently has four digital products and services: Digital Onboarding System with Artificial Intelligence (DOBSAI); fund transfers; bills payments; and applications for multi-purpose loans.

DOBSAI allows clients to open a mobile banking deposit account using mobile phones in real time. It now has 19,887 accounts as of end-2020 with outstanding deposits worth P104.37 million.

The bank’s digital banking recorded P467 million worth of inflows from 45,997 accounts, and P372.41 million of outflows from 62,633 accounts so far.

The small bond offerings of the Bureau of the Treasury (BTr) also boosted the usage of the mobile app, it said, with 3,517 transactions worth P40.72 million done for the second series of Premyo bonds, and 380 transactions worth P8.27 million in issuance of retail Treasury bonds (RTBs).

The bank is accessible across 112 countries, while 763 merchants are connected in the mobile app via the LinkBiz.Portal.

Under the BSP’s new circular, interested parties wanting to apply for a digital banking license need to put up a minimum capital of P1 billion to establish their presence in the country. The framework also allows currently established brick and mortar lenders to convert to digital banks.

Other digital banks in the country that have yet to obtain an official digital banking license include CIMB Bank Philippines, Inc. and ING Bank N.V. Manila. — Beatrice M. Laforga