Philippines Jump-Starts Electronic Banking

More than one hundred million people, 2.5 billion transactions every month—and just 1% of payments made electronically.

That’s a snapshot of the current retail market in the Philippines ahead of its May 9 presidential elections. To help carry an economy set to double to $500 billion by 2020 and sustain the shift from a paper-based to an electronic-based payment system, the country’s central bank recently announced an ambitious series of initiatives. Among them is the new National Retail Payment System (NRPS), which will allow for easier and real-time interbank transfers, as well as merge the various ATM, mobile money and electronic point-of-sale networks.

In 2014 the Philippines loosened restrictions on FDI, allowing qualified foreign lenders to open branches and buy up to 100% of a local bank, a move that is expected to stimulate innovation and greatly expand mobile banking adoption among users in rural areas.

“Our target is to boost the electronic payments rate to 20% within the next four years,” says deputy governor of Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Nestor Espenilla Jr. With one-third of the adult population still unbanked, it’s a goal within reach.