A full-spectrum digital bank, UNO Digital Bank elevates its consumers by making banking simple, better, and more accessible. The bank provides a single, reliable interface that can quickly and easily take care of anyone's whole range of financial needs.
We spoke with Founder and Chief Executive Officer Manish Bhai, who is also the co-founder of the Singapore-based financial technology firm UNOAsia Pte. Ltd., one of the key incorporators of UNObank Inc., and during our talk, he said, “Our real focus is to make a real impact in the country in terms of credit inclusion and responsible lending.”
In the country, only 10% of the population borrows money from the formal sector, according to Manish. The majority, if not all, of loans are obtained via the informal sector. It will take time to change this, and UNO Digital Bank wants to take the lead. “That’s our differentiator, we want to be identified as a lending-led or credit-led digital bank” he continued by outlining the direction and goals of UNO Digital Bank in order to have a significant impact on the nation.
UNO Digital Bank is a digital bank regulated under the Digital Banking License framework of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas that uses Amazon Web Services (AWS) to provide innovative, forward-thinking digital banking services to consumers in the Philippines. Implementing the UNO Digital Bank on AWS allows for the most latest and highest security and compliance standards specified by local authorities and government organizations.
“We are proud to say that we are completely build up on AWS cloud, secure technology. We have not cut corners when it comes to putting software’s for cybersecurity, security monitoring. We have a command center, we have a monitoring team, which does all that,” he shared to us.
As a credit and lending-focused digital bank, UNO launched its first product, UNOnow, to promote responsible lending and increase formal sector credit inclusion. UNOnow is a very transparent product with low interest rates and loanable amounts of up to P200,000 for approved customers.
The Philippines has relatively high internet and smartphone penetration for digital banking. According to Statista, the Philippines now has approximately 84.67 million smartphone users in 2022, with a projected increase to 91.48 million by 2026. Despite significant mobile penetration, access to financial services, even a simple savings bank account, remains limited.
“We launched publicly only last quarter of last year during (the) Philippine Fintech Festival and today we have more than 200,000 customers, most of them are first time serious bankers. Banking is just one part of financial inclusion. Our real differentiator is we want to be identified as a responsible digital lender of the country” Manish added.
UNO established two main approaches for clients to open accounts in order to make digital banking more accessible to the underserved. For starters, users can open their own savings account using the UNO Digital Bank mobile app or through their collaborative partnership with GCash. While going to their GSave, GCash customers can easily open their UNO account. GCash users can now deposit their savings to UNO Digital Bank in less than a minute.
“Our vision is to make banking simple, better, and accessible. How are we doing this? We are doing this by having our app so that is easy flow. It’s simple and better. And how are we making it more accessible? We are making it accessible not only by having our own app, but having partners. Having that partnership with GCash means 70 million people everywhere from the north of the country to the southernmost, east west, anywhere can have access. And that’s how we are creating this impact,” explained Manish.
Another step toward educating millions of unbanked Filipinos that traditional financial institutions find difficult to reach is the collaboration between UNO Digital Bank and Singapore-based Proxtera. As part of the SME Financial Empowerment Program (SFE), the collaboration seeks to train 10,000 Filipino MSMEs in financial literacy, integrating them into the banking system and empowering them to develop and flourish.
According to the 2021 Bangko Sentral ng Philippines Financial Inclusion Survey, 45% do not meet the minimum financial threshold to create an account, 40% do not have the necessary paperwork, and 22% are unaware of the process. The SFE Program courses are significantly subsidized in order to make them affordable to MSMEs. Those who successfully finish the course will be awarded a digitally verifiable certificate. Users will also have access to a resource portal that contains financial services tools and knowledge resources.
“We are bringing financial education with Proxtera. We are doing actually certification of MSMEs where they go through small course on financial literacy. And if they qualify on that course, they automatically get an UNO account and privilege rates of interest. Similarly, other initiatives which we have on the lending side is to offer loans both to the salaried class and self-employed through a combination of general purpose loans, conventionally financing loans, and working capital loans,” Manish shared these initiatives covering MSME segments.
UNO Digital Bank has no minimum balance requirements, no fees, 6.5% interest rate, and a free virtual card. When you request a physical card, you must pay a small fee to cover the expense of printing the card. Fund transfers are currently free of charge.
“Everything is free because we want to really encourage people who don’t have bank accounts or people who are underbanked, who had bank accounts but didn’t find any incentives to use the bank account to start operating and using UNO,” Manish added.
UNO Digital Bank seeks to reduce the gap in financial access and financial inclusion by taking use of the high rate of smartphone adoption in the Philippines, where there is a considerable opportunity for digital banks to grow in the years to come. Being a credit-led digital bank, UNO Digital Bank will make it possible for any Filipino with a smartphone to open a bank account, gain access to all of their financial products, and take care of all of their financial needs throughout their lives.
“We want to be known as that bank, which understands retail lending, which understands ethical lending, which understands responsibility. We believe that credit inclusion is a very important part of financial inclusion. And no one else is owning that space in the country and we want to own that. And we want to lead that.”
UNO Digital Bank mobile app is available in Google Play Store and Apple App Store. To know more about UNO Digital Bank, please visit: https://uno.bank/