Fintech group sets financial inclusion objectives

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By Melissa Luz T. Lopez
Senior Reporter

A NEW INDUSTRY BODY has set goals for financial inclusion, as its members look to bring 25 million Filipinos aboard the formal financial system through the use of digital technology. on Tuesday launched the Governor Nestor A. Espenilla, Jr. Institute for Growth towards National Inclusion, Transformation and Empowerment (IGNITE) which provides a private sector approach to get more adults to use banks and online financial services.

Financial technology (fintech) players attended yesterday’s Inclusion and Digital Transformation Summit and set goals for inclusion.

“Designed to promote inclusive businesses, IGNITE welcomes low-income segments of the population into the formal economy through this disruptive digital financial innovations,” said Lito M. Villanueva, chair of

The body targets to include what it calls the “financial access-deficient segment” — or what used to be the “unbanked” — to get their own accounts and transact through formal platforms.

IGNITE targets to equip 25 million adult Filipinos with basic deposit accounts, which they will use for financial transactions. These refer to entry-level accounts that have no maintaining balances and dormancy fees, and can be used for transactions below P50,000.

The group is also looking to reduce the number of unbanked towns and provinces to 25% from 35% currently, as well as allow a fourth of cooperatives, rural banks and micro-finance firms to roll out inter-operable digital products and services.

The multi-stakeholder team is named after the late Mr. Espenilla, who passed away Feb. 23 after battling tongue cancer. He is best known for his Continuity Plus Plus agenda which put a premium on wider access to financial services.

These take off from the self-imposed goal of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to bring 20% of all local payment transactions onto the digital space by 2020, coming from a one percent base back in 2013.

New BSP Governor Benjamin E. Diokno said he is keeping this target, which he inherited from Mr. Espenilla. “I fully support and will carry forward our financial inclusion agenda so that financial services are made more accessible to a great number of Filipinos,” Mr. Diokno said in his keynote speech.

Mr. Villanueva took his oath as president of IGNITE, while Mr. Espenilla’s wife, Ma. Teresita F. Espenilla, will serve as its chairperson. She is a microfinance specialist for the United States Agency for International Development.

Other members of the group’s board of trustees are Finance Undersecretary Gil S. Beltran, Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez, Budget Undesecretary Lilia C. Guillermo, CARD MRI founder and managing director Jaime Aristotle B. Alip, Senior Financial Sector Specialists Kelly Hattel of the Asian Development Bank and Gay Santos of the International Finance Corp., SunLife Financial Philippines Country Head and Chief Executive Officer Rizalina G. Mantaring, Microsoft National Technology Officer Richard Bon Moya, National Confederation of Cooperatives Chief Executive Officer Sylvia O. Paraguya, and Producers Savings Bank Corp. President Gilda E. Pico.

Digitizing payments and remittances is expected to lead to a “highly efficient” fund flow that, in turn, will help fuel economic growth, while making these services cheaper and more accessible.