Thursday, July 18, 2024

Smile API formally debuts in PH, pitches privacy-centric digital platform

Tech firm Smile API has formally launched in the Philippines, pitching its digital platform to the country’s financial services sector.  

Smile API chief executive Jerome Eger

The company said its platform allows local businesses to add features and functionality that is specific to their products and facilitates the application approval (or rejection) within just a few seconds.

During the recent company launch, Smile API chief executive Jerome Eger explained the all-too-common situation that bogs down businesses: “We did a survey and found that on the average, for every 100 employees in any given company, there are three to five requests for certificates of employment per week. A person in HR handles this, and it takes company time that can be better used for other business matters. While they need to do this, this process has no value for the employers.”

Eger added: “What we offer becomes not just a win but a win-win-win solution for businesses, their employees, and mostly for third-party providers like banks, financial institutions, and other vendors whose services are made more accessible to potential customers.”

Smile API, which recently appointed tech veteran Jan Pabellon as its chief product officer in the Philippines, said its platform was conceived from a simple, yet important truth that affects virtually everyone: people can never fully control their personal and employee data.

Their employment data — the most relevant to financial institutions, vendors, or even potential new employers — will always need to be obtained from and verified by third-parties through documentation, like certificates of employment, pay slips, proofs of billing, bank statements, credit card statements, or even academic transcripts of records.

To escape this cycle of inefficiency, Eger said that the individual must realize that “having access to data is a basic right. “Your data is very important, as data is the oil of the 21st century. The difference is: then few people had oil, now, everyone has data,” he said. 

In contrast, he added, “Smile API empowers people to have their own data, and to use that data for their own good.”

Eger likened Smile API to infrastructure that connects, using technology: “We provide bridges that allow data to move quickly between employer to bank or vendor, but the user has complete control of whether or not they cross the bridge. The customer has to grant explicit consent for each transaction, and decides what data is shared with whom and at what time.”

Still relatively new, Smile API aims to provide a service unlike any in the country. Just recently, they received funding from two established fintech investors: Credit Ease, a diversified conglomerate with a global footprint; and Plug and Play Singapore, a global venture capital firm with a strong regional presence.

Kevin Aok, head of strategic investment and M&A from Credit Ease, explained why Smile API is eyeing the Philippines first: “We are looking for markets with a higher potential growth rate. Many Filipinos have stable income and the Philippines is largely English-speaking.”

Ziheng Li, senior ventures analyst at Plug and Play Singapore, shared why Smile API is the right API for the region at this time: “Unlike other global markets such as the US and China, where employer data APIs are common, there is no API or service similar to Smile API in the region.”

Smile API said it is already forming alliances in the Philippines. One such partner is Johanne Lim, the CEO of MoveForward Inc. (MFI)., an online buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) provider for the unbanked in the country.

Lim elaborates on what Smile API’s revolutionary technology has done for the industry:  “With the Philippines becoming more of a gig and freelancer economy, the problem is that we have no centralized system in the country that provides reliable employment information. With Smile API, we are keen to gain understanding of our new market.”

Eger said Smile API is all about empowerment and financial inclusion, especially for those who have to suffer through seemingly endless red tape.

“Our solutions relieve you of the stress of application and enable you to achieve your goals, personal and professional,” he said. “We are very excited to see how innovative companies in fintech and even beyond, build on the infrastructure we are developing at Smile API in the future.”

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