Fintech Growth: Powering Up Cities, Communities, and The Entire Country

World Fintech Festival Philippines Day 1

One of the most renowned and highly attended fintech events in the world, the Singapore Fintech Festival (SFF) pivots to become the largest tech event, encompassing a global audience with the Philippines being one of the key participating countries in a 5-day virtual event from December 7-11.

Having transformed into the World Fintech Festival (WFF), local thought-leaders in digitizing cities, e-banking, and the rise of Filipinas in tech were featured in the panels of the first day on  Dec. 7.

Fintech Leadership Moves to Asia 

Fintech leadership is moving to Asia, and the Philippines has strong potential to emerge among its central players.

This was one major analysis that came out during the first panel of the day entitled “Fintech Growth: Powering Up Cities, Communities, and The Entire Country.” 

Industry leaders who spoke in the panel were Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Director Melchor Plabasan, Ayala Corporation CFO TG Limcaoco, Finnovation Co-founder and Chairman Malik Kotadia, senior digital financial advisor John Owens, and WFF-Philippines convener Amor Maclang. The panel was moderated by British Chamber of Commerce Chairman Chris Nelson.

Mr. Kotadia described the turning tide of change, “There was a time that when fintech was mentioned, London was the hub of that world or people thought of Silicon Valley. But now the pivot is shifting to Asia, which is the next group engine for fintech.” 

Mr. Owens described how he had seen this shift come to the Philippines, with its fintech sector’s stride into e-money, data sharing, and data privacy showing why it is the inarguable champion for innovation in Asia: “The Philippines as a leader, is the chair of ASEAN working group. The Philippines has one of the best central banks—the BSP–to join the region, and they continuously foster collaboration among regulators.”  

The success and strategies of Philippine institutions like BSP and GCash were studied and adopted by M-PESA, the African-based mobile phone-based money transfer service.

Mr. Kotadia added that the Philippine customer base—which is one of the largest internet and social media users in the world—” is more than ready than ever before for fintech to rise in Asia.”

Mobile Wallet is New King, as GCash Hits P1-T Annual Transactions

The Philippines’ transition to a truly cashless society is well underway, as leading mobile wallet GCash hit P1 trillion transaction value this year. This was even more than the cumulative gross value it had accomplished from 2017 to 2019.

Martha Sazon, President and CEO of Mynt (GCash), said safety protocols and limited mobility during the pandemic have changed the conventions of financial transactions, paving the way for a frictionless, cashless future.

“We are used at least twice a day, every day. But now, we registered 1000% transaction growth in relevant use cases. We even hit a P1 trillion transaction value – which goes to show how much we’ve helped Filipinos. This was our vision for 2023, yet this was brought to life this year,” Sazon announced in the Panel: “Banks and FinTech: The Advantages that Mass Adoption Brings to the Public.”

Joining her in the panel were UnionBank Fintech Business Group Head Arvie De Vera, UNO Bank Co-Founder and CEO Manish Bhai, Tonik Chief Technology Officer Arivuvel Ramu, Binance Director Colin Goltra, and Pera Hub President and CEO Ian Ocampo.

Ocampo said the digital economy is changing the way people do business and live their everyday lives. “What we will see is a radical shift to neo-banking. More startups will be able to bring in fintech advancements, which will benefit the nation as a whole. What will boost this further is the collaboration with the government.”

Debunking Disadvantages with Women in Tech

The tech world isn’t a boy’s club anymore. With many Filipinas establishing their names and taking up space in the tech scene, women in senior positions prove that gender stereotyping is now a thing of the past.

Mynt’s Chief Technology & Operations Officer Pebble Sy-Manalang identified one possible root cause of gender stereotyping in the Philippine tech space: the gap in the labor force starts in education with the misconception that STEM is only fit for men.”

Manalang debunked the misconception that men are more productive than women citing that the latter’s childbearing hinders career productivity.

Manalang was joined by Impact Hub’s Asia Pacific Regional Lead Ces Rondario, Apptitude’s Chief Investment Officer Josephine Romero, and AHEAD Education Technologies Founder Rosanna Llenado. All of them agree that the key to nourishing more women in higher positions is by providing a mentorship program that is anchored on sincere willingness to listen to the needs of women leaders; provide sincere career advice, and allocate time for consultations on friendly ground.

“If you want to see more women in the leadership position, it is important to have support among them,” Manalang emphasized.

For Romero, the glass ceiling in the tech industry has long been broken as a group in the ‘90s tagged as “WIT” or Women in Tech who introduced ATMs and set up computers in school. “I remember how the misconception that tech is just for men wasn’t even discussed. This was the kind of mentorship I try to pass on to people I work with. We brought this mentorship in ASEAN as an example to our fellow entrepreneurs in ASEAN and to show that we are using tech to evolve, step ahead, and make it efficient resources-wise.”

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