Country’s first branchless bank drives mobile transactions in the countryside

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Good news for Filipinos not living in the major urban areas—the results of a mobile banking pilot in the countryside affirm the Filipinos’ readiness for cell phone-driven financial services, so you don’t need to go to a bank or a computer every time you want to make a transaction.

The Banking the Unbanked (BTU) project brought the bank to places like the countryside and remote areas of the Philippines. The program was implemented by PlaNet Finance Group through its subsidiary company, mBank Holding (MBH), in partnership with leading wireless services provider, Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) to benefit members of the low income market who otherwise have little or no access to formal banking services.

The 18-month pilot utilized Smart’s award-winning Smart Money platform to provide mobile-based financial solutions such as micro-savings and micro-loan services to a test market of Smart and Talk ‘N Text subscribers composed of farmers, airtime retailers, market vendors and other low-income earners, who remitted capital build-up deposits and loan amortizations using their Smart mobile phones.

What sets the BTU apart from other mobile-based initiatives is that all transactions—from Know Your Customer (KYC) processes, account activations, capital-build ups, loan disbursements and collections–happen over-the-air (OTA). Once launched commercially, the offerings of the BTU project will be rolled out to different locations in the Philippines, and potentially, other countries.

“This project was launched to let members of the underserved sector enjoy the full range mobile banking services despite their geographical and income limitations. We are happy that our efforts have helped revolutionize mobile banking services in the countryside,” said Arnaud Ventura, co-founder of mBank Holding, and PlaNet Finance and President & CEO of MicroCred.

“Smart’s participation in the BTU project underscores our commitment to provide affordable, relevant and accessible financial services to Filipinos. Through our tried and tested mobile money platform and Smart’s “nationwidest” coverage, we hope to pave the way for more inclusive financial services that will benefit the unserved and underserved communities of the Philippines,” said Tricia V. Dizon, Smart Financial Services Head.

Smart currently has 51 million subscribers in the Philippines, and about 98% of those subscribers use prepaid plans. Smart’s infrastructure covers all 1,629 municipalities and cities in the Philippines.