Visa bullish on more opportunities in Philippines

Lawrence Agcaoili (The Philippine Star) - February 27, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Global payments service provider Visa sees more opportunities as the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) ramps up efforts to increase cashless transactions in the country for a cash-lite economy.

Dan Wolbert, Visa country manager for Philippines and Guam, said the objective of the BSP to raise cashless transactions to 20 percent by 2020 from the previous level of about one percent a few years ago offers vast opportunities.

The Philippines remains a laggard in terms of digital transactions in Southeast Asia compared to Singapore’s 60 percent, Malaysia’s 50 to 60 percent, and Thailand with double-digit level.

“We are well aware of the numbers from the central bank in terms of electronification of payments. Given what that overall opportunity, there’s just tremendous cash conversion,” he said.

The BSP under the leadership of late governor Nestor Espenilla Jr. has launched the National Retail Payments System (NRPS) that aims to establish a safe, efficient, affordable, and reliable electronic retail payments system in the country, with an increase in the share of electronic retail payments to at least 20 percent by 2020 from the current level of one percent.

The regulator has directed banks and financial institutions to establish effective mechanisms to ensure that all frontline personnel at the head offices, branches, and other banking offices possess adequate information about PESONet (Philippine EFT System and Operations Network) and InstaPay.

Both automated clearing houses (ACHs) were launched as part of the National Retail Payments System (NRPS) aimed at establishing a safe, efficient, affordable, and reliable e-payments system.

The PESONet involves the fund transfer from one account (payer) to one or several accounts (payees) maintained in different banks. The fund transfer or payment instructions are processed in bulk and cleared at batch intervals.

On the other hand, InstaPay allows customers to transfer peso funds almost instantly between accounts of participating banks. The service is available 24x7, all year round.

The BSP has also streamlined licensing requirements for banks and financial institutions that intend to offer electronic payment and financial services (EPFS).

“I think over time, more and more Filipinos learn, grow and adopt electronic payments. I think the important thing is we know it’s going in the right direction,” Wolbert said.

He said other measures that could boost cashless transactions are new products and services as well as education and financial literacy.

“Universally, whatever you think that number should be, we all agree that number is just too low where it is currently,” he said.

Based on the 2017 Consumer Payments Attitudes Study released by Visa, Filipinos are increasingly going cashless as the survey showed 70 percent of respondents have gone cashless for at least a few days.

Around 58 percent of the respondents cited convenience while 47 percent cited safety as the main drivers for this digital behavior.

Furthermore 69 percent of the respondents expressed confidence to go cashless for a day and 52 percent think they could use only electronic payments for up to three days.

More Filipinos are using digital payments and are spending about 15 percent more on their cards as compared to a year ago. Filipinos who shop online have increased to 92 percent in 2017 from 71 percent in 2016.

In fact, 66 percent of them shop online at least once a month. Consumers cite utility bills or fines (59 percent) as one of the top categories paid online, followed by fashion (43 percent), travel (40 percent), and beauty products (36 percent).

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