LEARNING is everybody’s business, including the 10,000 Filipino micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) which will undergo an intensive training on financial literacy as part of the SME Financial Empowerment (SFE) program to help integrate them into the banking system and empower them to scale and grow.
Such joint initiative of UNO Digital Bank and Singapore-based Proxtera is a step toward educating millions of “unbanked” Filipinos that traditional financial institutions find hard to reach.
According to the 2021 Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Financial Inclusion Survey, 45 percent do not have the minimum financial requirement to open an account, 40 percent lack the right documents, and 22 percent lack knowledge about the process.
“When you piece all this together, the financial literacy penetration is very low because people haven’t really understood what it means to integrate into organized banking or have a relationship with financial institutions,” said Manish Bhai, CEO of UNO Digital Bank. “We want to promote financial literacy as an entry point to the formal financial sector.”
“SFE provides financial literacy credentials which is the first step in providing an important indicator of intent to pay,” noted Proxtera CEO Saurav Bhattacharyya. “We are very excited to have this partnership with UNO Digital Bank in the Philippines which supports the core purpose of Proxtera: to serve MSMEs through financial inclusion.”
The program’s courses are heavily subsidized to ensure they are accessible to MSMEs. “…Proxtera…developed these modules which are effective, fun, and engaging. With this partnership, we want to make sure that these modules reach the critical mass,” Bhai said.
Those who finish the course will receive a digitally verifiable certificate, gain access to a resource hub with financial services tools and knowledge services, and get digital bank account and loan facilities.
Seeing the success of Proxtera’s SFE courses during launch in Africa and Asia, UNO decided to work with the former, cementing it during the recent Philippine FinTech Festival convened by Digital Pilipinas, in partnership with Elevandi, which was founded by the Monetary Authority of Singapore.
Bhai cited the partnership “will definitely help the business owners out there to make use of multiple financial products which will enable them to grow their business, and be profitable and self-sustaining.”
Bhattacharyya agreed, saying, “Our whole purpose as a company is to help MSMEs in financial inclusion, which is where UNO Digital Bank is starting and targeting their customer base as well.”
For UNO Digital Bank Chief Business Officer Amit Malhotra, small businesses are the economy’s lifeline. He said: “The MSMEs have a need for credit rating, financial investment, and other financial services. And we, as a digital bank, feel like providing that is our moral responsibility to them.”
UNO Digital Bank and Proxtera are preparing for the SFE’s next phase as the MSMEs graduate. Per PTTC Training Division Chief Guia Donido, they will continue to enroll MSMEs whose main problems are access to finance.
“What’s the usual concern of MSMEs? Additional capital and learning how to manage and grow capital. These were addressed by the learning modules provided through the website. This is a good program that addresses the concerns of MSMEs from training and financial education to access to finance services,” she said.