Filipino fintech targets rural banks, MFIs

Published May 3, 2021, 5:00 AM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

PearlPay, a Filipino fintech company, is hoping that over 10 rural banks and micro financing institutions could go live this year using their world-class digital banking solutions.

Spark Perreras, PearlPay co-founder and CEO, said during a media roundtable organized by AWS the need to go digital to grow their business. He stressed that digitalization for the rural banks was further highlighted during this pandemic.

According to Perreras, 2 rural banks have been approved by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) as of March this year to go live and one rural rank in June this year. For the rest of the year, 6 rural banks are scheduled to go live. 

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Perreras noted that not all banks, especially rural banks, have e-payment systems and not all Filipinos have smart phones or proper internet connection. This is true for microfinance institutions and cooperatives as well.

Additionally, most available technologies and payment solutions either need an updated phone or good Wi-Fi connection.

With that, Perreras explained that PearlPay seeks to democratize access to electronic money in the Philippines by providing rural banks, microfinance institutions, and cooperatives cloud-based and mobile technologies capable of functioning and delivering digital solutions despite the lack of the usual technological infrastructure, effectively leading to better financial inclusion

PearlPay doesn’t compete with banks. Instead, it seeks to enable the rural banks. It partnered with the Rural Bank Association of the Philippines (RBAP) to roll out a pilot program for almost half of all rural banks in the country.

PearlPay initially focused on rural banks. But due to demand, PearlPay organically expanded to microfinance institutions since the onset of the pandemic.

For microfinance institutions and cooperatives, PearlPay developed its Loan Management System, which is derived from its Core Banking System (CBS). It has been recognized by the BSP as a CBS provider and has received a go-signal to go live with its pilot program beginning June 1.

With its end-to-end digital and banking solutions, PearlPay is targeting marginalized and underserved segments in the Philippines.

PearlPay is tapping and transforming key institutions such as rural banks, microfinance institutions, cooperatives, and similar organizations to address financial inclusion in the Philippines.

Perreras said they are helping the MFIs and rural banks in the country to shift digitalization noting that there are 450 rural banks with several branches in the country but are still trapped with the passbook technology. 

For instance, he said, the world-class PearlPay solutions will allow the rural banks to join the huge remittance business of the overseas Filipino workers. 

He cited the potential for growth because there are already 13 million existing depositors in the rural banks. Only three of these rural banks have online operations.

Once PearlPay is able to aggregate the physical branches of these rural banks they can easily connect to enable them to receive remittance overseas. That is the reason that PearlPay has set up an office in Hong Kong and Singapore because they are partnering with first mile remittance companies, he said.

“This means additional revenues for rural banks once they are connected to the growing remittance community,” he added. 

So far, he said, PearlPay is also helping 7 rural banks and 8 MFIs to shift to its world class technology. “So, we now focus on converting into new processes and creating new channel for rural banks,” he said. 

At present, the only channel for rural banks and MFIs are their branch network, they don’t even have have an ATM. 

The Filipino Fintech company, headquartered in the Philippines, has regional offices in Hong Kong, Indonesia, and Singapore and over 50 people onboard.

With its cloud architect certified by AWS, PearlPay has been using AWS Cloud since day 1, primarily due to its affordability, quick deployment, scalability, and high-level of security.

From its core application to its backend system, the company’s entire suite of products is hosted on AWS cloud. PearlPay currently runs three types of workloads on AWS Cloud.