Fintech firm expands to VisMin to make P1.5B available for SMEs

By Espie Angelica A. de Leon

Infused with fresh capital to the tune of P1.5 billion, financial technology firm First Circle has announced its nationwide expansion in the Philippines to better serve the credit requirements of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) even in Visayas and Mindanao and lay the groundwork for their future success.

First Circle CEO Patrick Lynch (right) with DTI secretary Ramon Lopez

First Circle executives made the announcement inside the company headquarters at the Trade and Financial Tower in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig on October 3, two years after its public launch in 2016.

With backing from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) ang Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the company is all geared up to provide non-collateral business loans online, in a speedy, convenient, and simplified manner regardless where the SME is located within the archipelago.

“Any business owner here today can tell you they’ve got millions of things to do. They don’t have the time to wait around, to spend hours in lines, in traffic, on one end of the phone line trying to figure out whether they can get access to finance,” said First Circle’s chief technology officer Tony Ennis. “And that is something we can definitely address using technology.”

SMEs can apply for financing in amounts of up to P5 million by logging on to www.firstcircle.ph or via the mobile app. The process includes providing basic information about the business, submitting a request, uploading a purchase order and invoice, and submitting an ID, among others.

By combining the information provided by the business owner with data from previous customers and external data providers such as the credit bureau and DTI, First Circle gets to build a profile of the SME requesting for a loan. This profile helps the company to decide how much credit limits they will offer and whether they are going to make a loan offer to the SME in the first place.

One of First Circle’s first clients outside Metro Manila was Carve Business Management Services, a digital marketing and design agency in Davao. Founder and chief executive officer (CEO) Thomas Secuya admitted that access to funding is a challenge faced by SMEs especially in Mindanao.

In Carve’s case, there were projects and partnerships that they wanted to bankroll and get off the ground. However, the unavailability of funds proved to be a hindrance. Until First Circle came to their rescue.

Meanwhile, the fast application process impressed Mike Makinano, CEO and president of data center solution Maximum Data Infrastructure Technologies. “First Circle [had] offered loans for like seven days, online,” he said. “That was really quick. They’ve never seen us. It’s a sizeable loan to be honest.”

Thomas Secuya, founder and CEO of Davao-based Carve Business Management Services, relates how First Circle helped their company hurdle the challenges commonly faced by SMEs in Mindanao

The event was also graced by DTI secretary Ramon Lopez. First Circle co-founder and CEO Patrick Lynch and Lopez signed a Memorandum of Understanding during the event to cement the partnership between the two.

Since April 2018, more than 10,000 purchase orders and invoices have been submitted to the First Circle platform. Loan applications have an aggregate value of P3.4 billion and customer loan offers have numbered to more than 2,000.

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