With digital payments becoming the norm in the Covid era, a Singapore-headquartered startup called Tonik is joining the rush to launch of digital-only bank operations in the Philippines.
Last June, state-owned Land Bank of the Philippines unveiled its digital bank Overseas Filipino Bank (OFBank), while local lender EastWest has also announced that it will launch its own digital bank in the country.
Tonik, a two-year-old company, said it received early this year a license from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to operate as a digital bank. It expects to formally launch its digital bank operations in the third quarter of this year after announcing in February that it has raised $6 million to finance the venture.
The startup also recently partnered with Mastercard to offer electronic payment products and transactional savings accounts within the third quarter this year.
Tonik founder and chief executive officer Greg Krasnov told the Philippine News Agency said he is optimistic on their operations because the average age of Filipinos, who are “completely digitally native”, are 24 years old and because the country is the number one market in terms of Facebook usage.
Citing surveys, Krasnov said over 50 percent of existing bank clients have indicated preference for “a good digital proposition for banks and are ready to switch their account and deposits if they get it.”
“The problem has not been that there is lack of demand. The problem has been so far lack of supply – incumbent banks have been unable so far to offer sufficiently convenient, secure, well-priced, and fun digital experiences to their customers. We plan to capitalize on this huge unserved demand by creating something that is driven directly by consumer insights of Filipino consumers that we gathered in the process of our product development,” he said.
Asked for the advantage of a digital-only bank compared to those with physical branches, Krasnov said “every good digital product is a ‘time machine’ in that it helps its users save lots of time.”
Citing the digital banking experiences overseas, he said people have benefited from this by saving their time on lining up just to avail of bank services.
“And, of course, a purely digital bank, without the costs of physical infrastructure, can pass on these cost advantages to its clients, in the form of higher deposit rates and lower fees. All these advantages add up to enable digital banks to grow very rapidly, if they get their product proposition right,” he said.
He said Tonik is not targeting to accumulate clients immediately within their first year in operations but are focusing on gaining “consumer feedback, and rapidly iterate our product and service, to make sure that we have something that really makes our customers very, very happy.”
“We believe the demand is there for us to grow into one of the top banks in the country over time, if we continue to build the right product and make our customers happy. This is something that traditional banks seem to have forgotten about –that you need to put customers first. Serving our customers right is what will get us to our long-term goals, so that’s what we are and will continue to be extremely focused on,” he said.
Krasnov said they want to provide Filipinos a banking service that will allow them to maximize the digital economy.
“Our partnership with Mastercard is about injecting more speed, scale, and performance into all facets of our business. Having immediate access to Mastercard’s global payment network, safety and security technology, data and analytics services, AI technology, and cybersecurity capabilities will be essential to Tonik’s growth and success in today’s digital-first reality,” he added. — Joann Villanueva (PNA)