The transition from conventional banks to technology-based financing solutions is picking up globally, with an increase of lenders within the sector catering to business and the individual. The insurgency’s timing has proven fertile, with an increasing band of disruptors mounting a robust challenge against traditional financial institutions and banks.
Unquestionably, the prospect of innovative technology that can securely deliver banking services directly to personal devices is one that is appealing. This appeal has risen drastically from the movement restrictions and lockdown measures introduced globally to contain the COVID-19 virus.
In Southeast Asia, the Filipino fintech startup ecosystem is booming even more during the pandemic, bringing services to the underbanked population and making it easier for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to access funding.
The socio-economic profile of the Philippines is a substantial factor in why the country is in favour of these lighter banking platforms. With its familiarity with western business and a large number of English speakers, Manilla has become a hub for emerging fintech. It is currently home to almost 200 financial technology companies, with upwards of 15% of the sector’s new startups based in the city.
We take a closer look at five exciting fintech startups in the Philippines to keep an eye on as the market continues to evolve.
According to its Facebook page, NextPay’s purpose has always been “to improve the financial wellness of every Filipino.” There is an obvious targeting of marketing at this level of finance towards the individual and small business.
NextPay’s services include digital wallets, digital invoicing, payments, and it has links to the country’s banks. It recently received development capital of $125,000 USD from Silicon Valley-based Y Combinator to develop its personal banking capabilities.
As their mission statement says, the “goal is to empower smaller businesses,” making it a laudable candidate to help upgrade online financial services catering to both the individual’s needs and those of the business world.
Agrabah is an interesting company that is bucking the online trend and narrowing, rather than expanding, its potential client base to Filipino farmers and fisherfolks.
It follows the broad fintech model of targeting smaller businesses. Still, as it specialises in the fishing and agriculture sector, the startup can deal with larger organisations within the industry on behalf of individuals.
Like other fintechs, Agrabah offers a bridge between the customer and traditional banks and encourages businesses to leave the familiarity of the traditional banking environment. The model it presents could work in many sectors as consumers might feel that industry-specific providers understand their financial needs better than a more wide-ranging financial institution, even if it is a more established one.
Moneybees can arguably be considered the ultimate fintech startup. It provides competition for traditional banks and the conventional ideas of currency, serving as the first “Over The Counter” cryptocurrency trader.
It was established in 2016 and enables users to invest and sell cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. A recent partnership with Tivoli Money Exchange sees the opening of three opportunities where customers can invest or cash in on their investments.
The cryptocurrency trading app, BloomX, is the result of cooperation between BloomSolutions and the global cryptocurrency platform Binance.
BloomSolutions is a small Manila-based company founded in 2015, specialising in micro-financing. Its BloomX product is a cryptocurrency trading platform that directly targets the individual investor. The platform boasts a portfolio of over 250 cryptocurrencies available for trading in the Philippines. The app is currently invite-only, but the removal of this limitation is likely this year.
Flint, a crowdfunding website developed in association with Signet Properties to boost investment in real estate, is a subsidiary of SeedIn, one of Asia’s leading P2B financing platforms. It claims to be the first low-cost tech-enabled real estate crowdfunding platform And mirrors the growing trend for online trading apps. As with many of the non-traditional financiers, Flint bases its potential appeal on the demystification and democratisation of the finance sector.
Signet Properties see this innovative lending model as an opportunity to assist anyone who is feeling “hesitant or is overwhelmed with the process of investing in Philippine properties.”
The platform does this by allowing individuals to make a relatively small investment. Property shares are available through the site for as little as $20 USD, which ordinarily would be a very unusual situation in a market usually dominated by large-scale investors.
The movement away from what increasingly appears to be monolithic traditional financial institutions to the increasingly varied and dynamic Filipino fintech startup alternatives continues to accelerate.
The fintech scene in the Philippines is on the rise, with these emerging trends funnelling further into the business and investment sectors. It would be interesting to see how the industry emerges to establish itself as a leader in Southeast Asia and beyond.