The new Bayad

HIDDEN AGENDA - Mary Ann LL. Reyes (The Philippine Star) - January 24, 2021 - 12:00am

Gone are the days when we had to go to different establishments to pay our bills.

One of those that provided an early solution to bill payments was CIS Bayad Center, a subsidiary of Manila Electric Company (Meralco).

By going to a Bayad Center outlet, we can pay all our utility bills. Even payments for tuition fees to a number of colleges and universities, for insurance premiums, and payments to a number of other firms can be made by simply going to one of Bayad Center’s numerous branches all over the country. As a leader in the local outsourced payment collection industry, it has been able to provide a convenient bills payment option for Filipinos, as well as a reliable bills collection solution for its corporate partners.

But for those who want more convenience, they can download on their mobile phones the Bayad Center app which allows payment of bills to over 1,000 firms. It also serves as a one-stop shop for government payments to agencies like the SSS, the Department of Foreign Affairs for Philippine passports, NBI for clearance certificates, and Pag-IBIG, among others. In addition to bills payment, however, you can also buy load for your mobile phone via the app.

Unfortunately, the app was primarily for bills payment. So much more can be done. After more than two decades of being a trusted name in the business, Bayad Center had to reinvent itself if it wants to keep up with the times. And with COVID-19 and the resulting lockdown that saw more and more people becoming digital savvy and transacting online, the company saw the need not only to preserve its legacy business, but also to grow and explore new frontiers.

It was for this reason that CIS Bayad Center, Inc. took a much-needed step, boosting its digital presence by offering much more to its growing customer and business partners base.

The company recently rebranded Bayad Center into Bayad and launched a new online payments platform and mobile app carrying the new name.

But what’s in a name?

According to CIS Bayad Center president and CEO Lawrence Ferrer, the rebranding will mean an improved payments experience for Filipinos as they continue to navigate their way in the new normal.

So from being just for bills payment, Bayad has now become an all-in-one platform. In the months to come, we will see not only the legacy bills payment feature, but more being offered on the mobile app, including mobile and RFID load buying, remittance transfers, medical reimbursements, ATM withdrawals, airline ticketing, loan disbursements, a savings account feature that earns interest in partnership with several banks, Pera Manager for managing one’s e-wallet with Bayad, and Job Assist through which one can look for job vacancies in Meralco and its subsidiaries, and if plans work out, in all the Metro Pacific Group of Companies.

The mobile app, which can be downloaded via Google Play and the App Store, will be an early adapter of these features, but the online payments platform (www.online-bayad.com) is expected to catch up a bit later.

But there’s more. By partnering with other companies, Bayad may soon be offering lifestyle services like ride hailing, professional e-services, food and parcel delivery, lodging and vehicle rentals, and travel and hotel booking. In the near future, we will probably just have to use the Bayad app if we want to have our food or other items delivered by Grab or to avail of the latter’s ride-hailing service. It’s worth mentioning at this point that Grab’s bills payment service is supported by Bayad.

When I was interviewing Mr. Ferrer last Thursday, my first question was: What is going to happen with the e-wallet with the old Bayad Center app. He assured me that I can still use the old app until my funds run out. In the meantime, he said, I will have to download the new Bayad app to start using its new features. And so I did, more so after learning that payments for Meralco bills will be reflected in real time and sans any additional charges.

Ferrer is actually a returnee to the MVP Group of Companies. He was part of the group that started Smart Money, the first mobile wallet in the world. He tells me that Smart e-load was, in fact, his baby. Back then, Smart Money was a product of Smart Communications. It was later spun-off into a separate business – Pay Maya, which is telco-agnostic so that even mobile subscribers of Globe can use it.

He then moved to Union Bank where he became head of the consumer payments business and stayed with the bank for a year. Lawrence is not new to banking. In fact prior to joining Smart, he was in banking. Then in June of last year, he was appointed to head CIS Bayad Center.

During the online launch of Bayad, Ferrer said that they see a new world order emerging from advances in technology, business, and social spaces, so they are transforming to keep pace with the times and the people they serve. Technology, he said, makes lives easier and more convenient.

He said Filipinos deserve to be rewarded for their hard work, and so CIS Bayad Center always thinks of ways to make payments and other financial services simple, fast, and readily available in every home and community.

During the interview, he recalled that during the early months of the lockdown last year, there was a drop in the over-the-counter part of the business as more people shifted to making online bills payments. In fact, it was only during the second half of 2020 when the OTC channels started to recover.

Prior to the lockdown, the OTCs accounted for 90 percent of the business while the digital footprint managed only 10 percent. Last year, however, saw digital growing to 30 percent and Ferrer expects that by the end of this year, this will grow to 50 percent.

He gave his assurance that they will protect the OTC segment. Of Bayad Center’s 40,000 payment locations nationwide offering e-payment services, around 700 are either company-owned or franchise while the rest are business partners.

Just how many bills are being paid through Bayad Center? In 2019, about P220 billion worth of bills were paid through the system. In terms of number of transactions, this is around 18 billion a month.

The company is not about to rest on its laurels. In fact, CIS Bayad Center is already in the latter stage of discussions with a number of local government units, including Pasig, Quezon City, Manila, and Marikina to enable their constituents to pay their bills through Bayad.

In addition, the company is also in talks with several banks to handle their online transactions. Prior to the pandemic, BSP Governor Ben Diokno envisioned that 50 percent of transactions, including payments, will be in digital form by 2023. The pandemic, however, has seen these targets escalated. A coinless society, he said, is possible by 2025 with the advent of the national QR code standard.

As they say, out with the old, in with the new. Digital is the way to go. It’s never too late to get on the bandwagon.



For comments, e-mail at mareyes@philstarmedia.com

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