In this photo taken at BPI Globe BanKO’s (BanKO) Head Office in San Juan, Manila, Donna, a yaya (nanny) and Nora, a maid, both working in Makati City, Philippines are opening up mobile money-enabled bank accounts. Their employer has agreed to pay them their salaries directly into their BanKO accounts.
BanKO is the first fully mobile-based, microfinance-focused savings bank in the Philippines. Established in July 2009 by BPI, Globe and Ayala Corporation, BanKO aims to provide Filipinos, especially those from low-income households, with secure and convenient access to affordable financial services by leveraging on its combined assets and infrastructure and building on the long established history of BPI in banking and Globe Telecom in telecommunications and especially its GCASH mobile money platform developed by GXI.
Mobile Money-Enabled Banking Services
The bank and its mobile money services definitely offer advantages that other banks and mobile money operators alone cannot offer. Since it is a bank, it can offer true banking services including savings accounts, loans, and microinsurance that can all be accessed and transacted via a mobile phone.
Compared to other commercial banks in the Philippines, the bank offers the lowest opening deposit at only P50 ($1.25) plus an additional P50 ($1.25) to get a linked ATM card. The bank also offers unique features such as no minimum maintaining balance and deposit interest rates of 3% for all accounts over P2,000 ($50). In addition, deposit account holders can opt for a 1% interest rate savings account that comes with automatic microinsurance which is up to five times the savings balance. For an additional fee of P365 ($9.13), clients can also get limited fire, flood, and additional accidental death insurance. Similar to other mobile money platforms, clients can also pay bills via their mobile phones directly from their bank accounts. Since the mobile money and bank accounts are the same, there is no need to take an extra step to move money back and forth between a bank account and a mobile money wallet. Likewise, since it is a bank model, there are no mobile money wallet limits. In addition, the linked ATM card offers the additional convenience of tapping into the 10,000+ ATMs in the Philippines.
The bank runs its mobile money system on a USSD channel which is linked directly to the GCASH mobile money platform and allows a certain degree of interoperability between its bank clients and non-BanKO GCASH users. This is a real plus for BanKO clients who have friends and relatives that they need to send money to who are not currently BanKO customers and who may live in areas not close to a BanKO outlet.
Outlets & Outreach
BanKO has developed a fairly extensive network of over 2,000 partner outlets that allow their clients to transact in multiple locations across the country that are comprised mostly of select drug stores, pawnshops, internet cafes, gas stations, and small grocery stores. Today, BanKO has over 330,000 deposit account holders in the Philippines and continues to expand with interesting new services.
As mentioned in my earlier blog post, BanKO has also been working closely with numerous Fast Moving Consumer Good (FMCG) companies to provide innovative supply chain financing and collection services. The bank also offers numerous bill payment facilities which are available directly from the client’s mobile phones. In the future, the ability to integrate the BanKO ATM card with the payments network will be a definite plus especially for those clients needing to make regular purchases in grocery chains, drug stores, restaurants or in shopping malls which are already well covered by traditional card-based point-of-sale networks.
BanKO’s online portal BanKO Link is also a great option for businesses wanting to provide services along the supply value chain, monitor bill payments, or provide payroll services. As I have mentioned in my previous blog post, for mobile money to provide services that meet the needs of low-income households, bringing on board the businesses they regularly interact with will be key. Only mobile money operators with online portals and good APIs are able to accomplish this task. With all these services, BanKO will continue to be an interesting model to track and monitor going forward.
New Depositors Donna and Nora
For new BanKO depositors, Donna and Nora, both are excited to have a BanKO bank account. For Donna, it is her first bank account. She chose the 1% interest rate account that offered free life insurance. After opening her account, her first transaction was to send airtime load to her husband and she was happy to receive a 10% rebate from the bank for this service. She also feels safer having her money in an account that she can access via a mobile phone or through an ATM. In the past, she had to be extra carful bringing her salary home on public transportation as petty theft is a real threat, especially on pay days. She can also send money to her husband on his phone when he needs it or to her mother in the province without incurring the high fees and the time it takes to go to the local remittance outlet. Nora is also happy to have a bank account. She use to have one when she worked overseas but she closed it after she returned to the Philippines and had not had the chance or opportunity to open up a new account given the higher minimum opening and maintaining balances required at other commercial banks. Since her daughter is grown up, she decided to take the higher interest bearing savings account and earn 3% interest. She likes the fact that she can now load her prepaid mobile phone whenever she needs airtime minutes even if she runs out of load on her phone. She is also interested in using it to send money to family and friends and plans to deposit more money in her account. Her only wish is that she could deposit money into her account from a BPI branch or Globe Business Center, which is currently not possible but a suggestion she had for the bank.
Over the coming year, I will provide updates on the mobile money scene in the Philippines including BanKO so feel free to subscribe to keep updated.
Photo Credits: John Owens & BPI Globe BanKO website