BAGUIO CITY – Smart eMoney, Inc. (SMI), the digital financial services unit of PLDT and Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart), has disbursed in 2014 alone over P5.2 billion to more than a million household beneficiaries via over-the-counter (OTC) cash payments in partnership with the Land Bank of the Philippines, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the National Confederation of Cooperatives (NATCCO), and other international humanitarian aid agencies.
“Smart eMoney has successfully tapped the base-of-the-pyramid market for humanitarian requirements of both the government and the international donor community. This is aligned with our efforts to offer financially inclusive products and services that serve a larger segment of the population,” said SMI president and CEO Orlando B. Vea.
OTC disbursements are cash payments to beneficiaries done offsite in community centers of identified cities and municipalities. SMI currently serves as a conduit for conditional cash transfer (CCT) under the auspices of the DSWD. This was awarded to SMI through public biddings, which SMI participated in for the first time in the five years of implementation of DSWD’s CCT program in the country.
SMI partnered with NATTCO, tapping into their network of over 700 member-cooperatives nationwide, which serves as the on-ground disbursement agent for CCT. The outstanding conduct of cash disbursements and management of the SMI-NATTCO joint venture merited a series of good performance ratings conferred by the DSWD.
The disbursements covered various regions such as the National Capital Region, CALABARZON (Calamba, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon), MIMAROPA (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan), Bicol Region, Western, Eastern and Central Visayas. As of December 2014, a total of 2.5 million payout transactions were done benefiting over one million program participants. Cash grants disbursed totaled in excess of P5 billion.
Apart from OTC payments for CCT beneficiaries, SMI continues to pursue innovations in the digital payments space as it works with local regulators and banks to promote electronic payments solutions in the country.
“Mobile and digital technologies have made financial services accessible to a larger segment of the population in the lower rung of the socioeconomic ladder. Our initiatives in this space support the advocacy of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas on financial inclusion and push for a cash-lite society,” said Lito Villanueva, head of financial innovations, digital inclusion and alliances at SMI.
SMI is also an active partner of various digital inclusion initiatives like the e-Peso project under the auspices of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the BSP for the National Retail Payments System to scale digital financial transactions in the country.
“In a country where cash is still being used for 8 out of 10 transactions, these inroads in digital payments using will help build that ecosystem where digital payments will be used for a larger number of transactions,” said Vea.
The USAID, in its 2013 report, said switching to cashless modes of payment might bring down transaction costs by as much as 90 percent in the Philippines.
In partnership with Citi Philippines and VISA, SMI launched the Charge2Phone that allows post-paid subscribers to use the mobile phone for face-to-face and online transactions. Its LockByMobile anti-fraud mobile application is also another innovative product that has already been garnering positive attention from the banking and financial services sector here and abroad.
By Dexter A. See