FinTQ, Bicol bank pushing mobile phone as virtual bank branch

By Edd K. Usman

LEGAZPI CITY, Albay – Financial technology firm FinTQ and the Camalig Bank in Bicol are laying the foundation to transform mobile phones as a virtual bank branch to drive financial inclusion in the region.

On Wednesday, May 17, executives of the two organizations rolled out Lendr, a mobile-based app for applying loans. With Lendr, borrowers can now apply for a salary loan from Camalig Bank through their mobile phones, officials said.

Photo shows (from left) Camalig Bank president Jose Misael B. Moraleda, FinTQ managing director Lito Villanueva, Camalig Bank COO Geraldine P. Moraleda, and Legazpi City mayor Noel E. Rosal launch the mobile-based loan application Lendr, which targets teachers and other government workers and private companies employees for their salary loan

Photo shows (from left) Camalig Bank president Jose Misael B. Moraleda, FinTQ managing director Lito Villanueva, Camalig Bank COO Geraldine P. Moraleda, and Legazpi City mayor Noel E. Rosal launch the mobile-based loan application Lendr, which targets teachers and other government workers and private companies employees for their salary loan

FinTQ, which runs Lendr, is the financial technology arm of PLDT and Smart’s Voyager Innovations. Camalig Bank, meanwhile, is a rural bank operating in the Bicol region that was established in June 1969.

FinTQ managing director Lito Villanueva and Camalig Bank chairman Jose Misael B. Moraleda said the initiative is meant to achieve financial inclusion, initially for government teachers and workers, as well as employees of private companies.

Villanueva noted the widespread use of mobile phones in the country, which he said could be used to access financial services. “If you can do social media, Facebook, calling and texting with your mobile phone, watch movies, or listen to music, why can’t you use your mobile phone as tool for productive things, and make use of it for accessing financial services,” he said in an interview.

The executive said it makes sense to use the mobile phone as a financial tool as it is the most pervasive device in the country, noting that virtually every Filipino has a mobile phone. This is also favorable to banks since building a physical branch is very costly for them, Villanueva said.

Camalig Bank’s Moraleda said salary loans comprise the bulk of its lending service. “But many institutions are also offering this product. So we saw the need to scale up to speed our offerings to our clients. We saw that Lendr is the key because most are now using mobile phones, and that loans processing is made quicker,” said Moraleda in a separate interview.

“If you need the loan outside of banking hours, you can actually submit your application. And during banking hours, we can process it and release the loan in 24 hours,” he said.

With Lendr, Villanueva said many are now gaining access to formal finance which will help them participate in the rapidly growing economy.

As going to the banks to apply for loans is tedious and cumbersome and takes time, the mobile app is expected to speed up the process and save on cost, the executives added. Banks are located in the urban centers of every province and loan borrowers need to take at least two hours of travel to get to the town or city proper.

Initially, target clients of Camalig Bank are qualified government workers and employees of the private sector. During the launch, those present at the event were able to apply for loans using their mobile devices connected to the Internet.

Moraleda said qualified borrowers will receive notifications for their loan applications on the same day they apply, which was demonstrated at the launch. After the event, those who registered for loan application received SMS text notifications in their mobile phones, telling them they can now apply for a loan.

He said the bank’s partnership with FinTQ for Lendr is meant to scale its digital transformation to cover more people. “The digital age has ushered so much convenience for all. Part of our transformation efforts at Camalig Bank is to bring such benefits to our clientele in the Bicol region, and to be able to serve more clients, even those in far-flung municipalities that are traditionally out of our reach,” Moraleda said.

Villanueva and Moraleda emphasized that their partnership is in response to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP)’s push for financial inclusion as million of Filipinos are still “unbanked” or without access to banks’ financial services.

For his part, Moraleda said Camalig Bank is prepared for the future. “We are embracing change,” he said.

Legazpi City mayor Noel E. Rosal welcomed the partnership between FinTQ and Camalig Bank as he batted for more opportunities for small banks. Lendr is one way of democratizing the banking industry, meaning that opportunities are only given to big banks but also to small banks. With new technologies, provinces can no longer be left behind.”

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