USAID Officers Get Hands-on Briefing on Mobile Phone Banking Services

Left photo: Joelan Ompoy from Davao sends GCASH to USAID Environment Officer Kerry Reeves.  Right photo: USAID Officers perform cash-in at the PR Savings Bank Ortigas branch.

Left photo: Joelan Ompoy from Davao sends GCASH to USAID Environment Officer Kerry Reeves. Right photo: USAID Officers perform cash-in at the PR Savings Bank Ortigas branch.

Officers of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) were given a firsthand briefing on the mobile phone banking initiative of the USAID-supported Rural Bankers Association of the Philippines-Microenterprise Access to Banking Services (RBAP-MABS) Program during a visit with partner bank, PR Savings Bank’s Ortigas Branch on August 11, 2011. The officers included Science & Technology Adviser to the Administrator Alex Dehgan, Environment Officer Kerry Reeves, Teresa Leonardo, Global Climate Change Advisor, and Contracts Officer Technical Representative Teresita Espenilla.

The team was provided with a presentation outlining the Program’s mobile phone banking initiative. As of May 2011, there are some 71 accredited rural banks with over 1,100 branches and other banking offices that are registered to offer mobile phone banking services utilizing the GCASH platform.  These banks have served over 256,000 mobile phone banking clients and customers and have processed more than PhP 12 billion ($ 250 million) in mobile phone banking transactions via GCASH.

PR Savings Bank, formerly Philippine Rural Banking Corporation (PR Bank), was recently granted a permit by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas to operate as a savings bank. Vice President for Finance, Jason Galang, related how the bank grew from its origins as the Rural Bank of Naguilian to a savings bank with 45 branches and 41 other banking offices (OBOs) serving all three of the country’s major island groups. The bank serves about 110,000 depositors and 140,000 borrowers with loan amounts ranging from PHP 5,000 (US$117) to PHP 200,000 (US$4,700).

PR Savings Bank was one of the first banks to offer mobile phone banking services as part of its products and services portfolio. In 2006, PR Bank became an accredited GCASH partner-bank – this allowed clients and users of Globe’s electronic money service, GCASH, to purchase or convert cash to GCASH  (cash-in); or claim and exchange GCASH for actual currency (cash-out).  Today, the bank’s average mobile banking transactions amount to PHP131.5 million monthly (approximately US$3 million).

In an interview, Mr. Roberto Alingog, Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer of PR Savings Bank, said that their motivation for deciding to offer MPBS was threefold: 1) to offer an affordable, immediate, convenient and personalized way to conduct client transactions, 2) to help client-merchants find a way to expand market reach and reduce costs, and 3) to facilitate in the development of a more robust local business environment, which in turn, will help generate more depositors and borrowers. A recent interview of Mr. Robert Alingog discussing his view of mobile money and mobile phone banking can be viewed at: http://youtu.be/m2zlZixq32s

Mr. Deghan noted that MPBS not only helps to accelerate the expansion of financial services in the rural areas, it also facilitates liquidity and is very convenient and easy to use.