By Lourdes O. Pilar, Researcher

MEETING between strong minds of Gokongwei group of companies and Tyme group, digital bank GoTyme Bank was formed and conceived its “phygital” model, a combination of a well-established digital system with physical and human banking.

Tyme Bank, a multicountry digital banking group, designs, builds, and commercializes digital banks to solve the challenge of financial services access for the underserved and unbanked in emerging markets. It brought its experience and expertise to GoTyme.

As one of the six digital banks licensed by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, GoTyme leverages the trusted brands and retail ecosystem of the Gokongwei group of companies. The bank started its commercial operations in October 2022.

Its focus is to provide preferred banking to all Filipinos through the “phygital” model and this will pave the way to unlocking the Filipino financial potential.

To know more about GoTyme Bank, BusinessWorld reached out to GoTyme’s President and Chief Executive Officer Nate Clarke and Co-Chief Executive Officer Albert Raymund O. Tinio to share their insights. Below is the excerpt of the e-mail interview.

How does GoTyme stand out among other existing digital banks in the country?

Nate Clarke: GoTyme Bank is the first digital bank in the country with a phygital business model. This allows us to provide customers first-rate banking experiences previously reserved for the premium or preferred clients of traditional banks. The fact that we provide digital banking services with a personalized and humanized customer experience makes us a human digital bank — with focus on human interaction or human support so that customers feel that their needs, and even wants, are understood and addressed.   

A thriving startup, GoTyme continues to invest in technologies and humans to provide its customers the best possible products and services.

What are the products you offer in the local market that would make you different from existing banking products in the country?

Albert Raymund O. Tinio: Our vision is to unlock the financial potential of all Filipinos. To do so, we use technology to drive inclusion and accessibility.  We have simplified products, processes, and services so that these are available to all our customers.

We started with sending money — GoTyme users can use their app to send funds from their GoTyme account to any bank or e-wallet for free, three times a week. Our deposits and withdrawals are always free at any Robinsons or Gokongwei retail counter.

We followed that up with shopping — GoTyme users earn three times the points whenever they use their GoTyme Bank Visa debit card within the Gokongwei retail ecosystem and one point elsewhere.  Further, we introduced a way to redeem these rewards points either as direct merchandise or as cash. The Asian Banking & Finance Retail Banking Awards 2023 cited GoTyme as the Debit Card Initiative of the Year.

We simplified savings — GoTyme offers the highest base interest rate of 5% per annum. Every GoTyme savings account holder can enjoy this interest rate, with no mission to complete and no minimum balance to maintain.  We also introduced savings tools like Save the Change and Auto-Save to help instill the habit of saving.

Moreover, GoTyme has started to roll out small merchant loans based on customers’ transaction history with an easy and hassle-free collection method, as well as consumer loans or earned wage access that allows employees access to their already earned net wages before their payday.

What are the benefits users can enjoy when they open an account with GoTyme?

Mr. Tinio: Customers seek not just products, but solutions tailored to their specific needs. They crave proactive outreach, bespoke services, and, critically, the empathy that comes with a seamless hybrid experience. A good user interface or user experience begins at first contact: GoTyme makes sure that customers enjoy a friendly and inviting experience using the app or at the kiosk. The GoTyme app is easy to use and navigate even for the non-digital natives, while the GoTyme kiosk’s sleek design makes onboarding and card printing a smooth and pleasant experience. GoTyme was recognized by the Red Dot Design Awards 2023 and UX Design Awards 2023 for its app and kiosk that bring world-class user interface and user experience to its customers.

GoTyme has rolled out 400 kiosks supported by over 1,000 bank ambassadors (BAs). These are located in Robinsons Supermarkets and other Gokongwei retail outlets. The kiosks and the BAs account for two-thirds of GoTyme’s customer acquisition.

In terms of cybersecurity, what are the measures you implement to protect customers from issues encountered in online transactions?

Mr. Clarke: GoTyme Bank offers secure, straightforward banking. We have adopted and keep upgrading our cutting-edge technology that strengthens cybersecurity controls. We employ high levels of encryption throughout our platform. We do automated security checking of our code with a tool for analyzing software for bugs and vulnerabilities; this allows us to monitor the entirety of our systems for any problems that may arise and address these right away.

As a cloud-based bank, we take advantage of Amazon Web Services (AWS), availing ourselves of PCI DSS (a global information security standard for protecting data) and NIST (cybersecurity framework used by governments and industries worldwide). Amazon has a team of thousands of security engineers who constantly work on the platform to protect its clients from all kinds of threats. 

We use Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing (VAPT), a process that helps us identify and fix security weaknesses before attackers can exploit them. We use in-app tools to prevent code being broken into or the use of the app on jailbroken phones.

We work with NICE Actimize, the leading global provider of financial crime, risk, and compliance solutions, guarding us against fraud and money laundering. This allows us to create a whole bunch of machine learning and AI-driven models for us to make choices around, to help to know if this transaction is a real one or a fake one.

Further, our teams conduct real-time monitoring of our platform’s health. This enables them to react immediately to potential incidents. Our modern design enables our systems to self-heal and scale to maintain service to customers.

Mr. Tinio: We also educate customers on the secure use of digital banking platforms and encourage them to set up features such as multifactor authentication, SMS or e-mail alerts, and fraud monitoring to prevent suspicious online banking activity. We use in-app biometrics to authenticate and additional GoTyme-implemented biometrics for validation for high-value activities like change in phone number. We design and execute the most user-friendly experience, encouraging customers to intuitively turn on valuable security features.

What are your plans to tap the unbanked population in the country, especially in the rural areas?

Mr. Clarke: GoTyme’s goal is to help all Filipinos unlock their financial potential. Our kiosks have been deployed to Robinsons retail outlets in the provinces in Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao. Our phygital model makes it easy for the unbanked and underbanked in the rural areas to open an account with us.

We have considered some of the peculiar banking problems plaguing Filipinos. For example, financial services are hampered by obsolete legislation that excludes potential customers from opening bank accounts, a shortage of cash points to enable account funding and transactions, and underdeveloped public infrastructure, particularly in the rural areas, resulting in poor connectivity. These have knock-on effects on banking fees on the back of security and logistical challenges, the high credit risk driven by unavailability of data and/or underdeveloped credit bureaus, and the markets being dominated by incumbents who are not motivated to offer competitive pricing. Finally, there’s the all-important emotional access stemming from a general distrust of the banking sector, and a relatively lower financial and digital literacy, which make it more difficult to drive adoption.

Our phygital business model puts a premium on access in all aspects of its operations. It has deployed a high-tech, high-touch retail-integrated distribution model powered by GoTyme’s smart mobile apps. Physical onboarding kiosks staffed by bank ambassadors enable five-minute account opening and real-time physical card issuing, while cash deposits and withdrawals are widely available through store cashiers. By ensuring that a helpful human is always at the end of the line, GoTyme Bank is committed to constantly improve on its customer service, such that quick, efficient, and helpful responses become a habit among its bank ambassadors and personal bankers.

Your website claims, “We’re high tech with a human touch — everything a next-level bank should be.” What does this mean exactly? Can you provide specific instances that illustrate this?

Mr. Tinio: Among the digital innovations we introduced is the use of onboarding kiosks that enable account opening and receiving a bank card in five minutes or less. These kiosks though, while digital and innovative, would not be sustainable, without the BAs.  BAs are there to help and guide would be GoTymers, as our customers have come to be called, through the onboarding process.  They patiently explain, answer questions, and provide the human interaction that Filipinos crave and need.  The BAs have built relationships with their supermarket-going GoTymers, so much so that they return with potential GoTymers in tow.  We actually ran an experiment in which we left newly activated kiosks without BAs for a period of time.  As expected, these kiosks had zero activations compared to those with BAs.

We utilize technology and analytical processes to better understand the services and products suited to our customers’ financial needs. With AI dominating the current conversation, data-driven AI capabilities allow us to analyze customers at a level of granularity, which puts us in a better position to predict needs and behaviors more accurately. But our interactions remain human-to-human because people prefer to talk to people to be heard and be understood by someone who generally cares.

On the surface, digital excellence and human interaction often appear as two opposing forces. But in today’s reality they are two sides of the same coin, both playing a crucial role in enhancing customer experiences. Balancing these two elements can significantly improve the service quality offered by financial institutions and drive success at a time when consumers feel less certain about their financial wellness on the heels of the pandemic.

The bank is planning to launch a new loan product which will focus on micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs). How will MSMEs benefit from this loan program?

Mr. Clarke: Many banks currently impose onerous documentation and checks on MSMEs before approving the MSMEs for a credit product. These processes often take a long time, such that by the time the credit application is approved, the MSME’s business or ability to take advantage of growth opportunities is negatively impacted. Some MSMEs are intimidated or confused by the documentation requirements, and choose to opt out of the process, resulting in an opportunity loss for both banks and MSME customers. MSMEs are also often stressed by the thought of taking out loans and are worried if they will have sufficient control over their cash flow.

GoTyme Bank’s Flexible Financing product for SMEs is designed to address these difficult pain points. Often, no further documentation is required from MSMEs beyond the basic identification checks. Customers are approved in real time, after a three-step, three-minute application. The loan funds are disbursed within one business day. The more the MSME does business with us or with our partners, the bigger the credit we are able to make available to the MSME customer. The Flexible Financing repayment scheme also follows the business performance of the MSMEs, as it is pegged at a percentage of the MSME’s  business revenue. If the MSME has a slower month of business performance, we collect less in repayments from the MSME customer. Through this, MSMEs can now get credit instantly when they need it, enabling GoTyme to stand shoulder to shoulder with the MSME business, with the Flexible Financing product, as a supportive banking partner.

What other products and services should we look forward to in the future?

Mr. Clarke:  With less than 3% of the Filipino population having access to credit, investments, and insurance, we plan to offer all these. We have in fact begun to offer affordable loans. By next year, we will be expanding our portfolio by including more investment instruments such as stock and cryptocurrency trading in our platform. There is much higher penetration into crypto than in traditional investments. More people in the Philippines have crypto investments than even stocks. We are planning to have one new asset class live on our platform by the first quarter of 2024, by the middle of which we should have two more asset classes. We want to have a healthy mix of high-risk and low-risk asset product offerings. We’re working with the BSP and the Securities and Exchange Commission to meet the requirements to begin moving this new lineup of financial products. We are also considering offering microinsurance, but the plan is still under review as we need to acquire a license to advance insurance products.

To know more about GoTyme Bank, visit