Strategy Note /
Philippines

The ultimate guide to Philippines fintech

  • The Philippines is an attractive emerging market for fintechs given poor financial inclusion and good technology access

  • Funding has improved driving faster customer acquisition. Lending and payments dominate but insurtech could grow fastest

  • Our proprietary fintech and consumer surveys give insights into the strategies and constraints of Philippines fintechs

The ultimate guide to Philippines fintech
Rahul Shah
Rahul Shah

Head of Financials Equity Research

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Contributors
Rabail Adwani
Rohit Kumar
Tellimer Research
9 March 2022
Published byTellimer Research

The Philippines’ blend of low financial inclusion and high technology sophistication generates an attractive environment for fintechs. Indeed, the country ranks second on our fintech attractiveness index. Our proprietary global survey of 215 unlisted fintech firms gives key insights on firms’ operational and strategic priorities and helps to position the Philippines' fintech ecosystem in a broader emerging markets context.

Philippines fintechs are targeting growth in transaction values and profitability. Their strategic focus is on fund-raising and tech investment, with innovations targeted in the areas of big data analytics, cryptocurrency, and cyber crime prevention.

In this report, we take a detailed look at the Philippines fintech landscape including:

  • the fintech opportunity in the Philippines

  • key characteristics of the local fintech ecosystem

  • fintech funding trends

  • electronic money statistics

  • key industry growth trends

  • financial services provider market shares and expected 3-year changes

  • fintech profitability versus EM peers

  • the key performance indicators fintechs are targeting

  • the competitive environment

  • fintechs’ values and success factors

  • fintechs’ plans and targeted innovations

  • fintechs’ growth constraints and regulatory hurdles

We also profile 200 firms making up the Philippines fintech ecosystem and highlight five companies that are worth watching.

The Philippines' fintech-friendly blend of low financial penetration and high tech sophistication

The Philippines has superior access to technology versus most emerging market peers, with high mobile phone penetration (155% of the population versus 122% in EM) and internet access (82% of the population against 76% in EM). In addition, high-tech exports account for 64% of the manufactured exports, which is well above the 11% emerging markets median.

In contrast, bank account penetration in the Philippines is half of that of the emerging markets and access to ATMs and credit cards is also more limited. These metrics highlight the poor rate of financial inclusion in the Philippines. Allied to the nation's strong technical skill base, the environment seems ripe for fintech disruption.

Key financial and technological sophistication metrics

The Philippines’ fintech ecosystem is skewed towards payments and lending

Payments and Lending fintechs together account for two-thirds of the Philippines fintechs ecosystem. Lending is the largest segment, contributing 38% of total fintechs compared to the 24% level typical of emerging markets peers. Payments is the second biggest sector with a 30% share versus 25% for EM peers. The Investech and Insurtech segments, on the other hand, have lower representation than elsewhere, although this could change in the future as fintechs diversify from their current areas of operations, and as we see consolidation in the more developed segments.

The Philippines fintech ecosystem

The Philippines’ fintech funding is breaking records but is concentrated on a few big-ticket deals

Fintech funding in the Philippines in the first half of 2021 of US$342mn was more than double the previous year (US$137mn), on account of two large late-stage transactions; GCash (US$175mn) and Voyager Innovations (US$167mn).

Although full-year 2021 numbers are not yet available, we have seen a similar trend of big-ticket deals in H2 2021, with Mynt’s US$300mn funding round making it the country’s lone fintech unicorn. Meanwhile, in February 2022, digital banking operator Tonik raised US$131mn in Series B, making for a good start to the year and suggesting the more positive big-ticket deal flow trends could continue into the remainder of the year.

Fintech funding activity in the Philippines

The payments sector is growing rapidly

There is a noticeable shift in consumer behaviour taking place, from agent-based transactions towards conducting payments via electronic money. Digital payments services, like mobile wallets, provide consumers with a convenient, affordable and secure settlement process. The number of active e-money accounts almost doubled in 2020 to 34.7mn, compared to 17.9mn in 2019 and a meagre 2.2mn in 2017. In addition, the value of digital payments transactions rose 62% in 2020 to PHP2.4tn, helped by Covid-related behavioural changes, while the 3-year CAGR (2017-20) stands at 36%. We expect this positive trajectory to have continued into 2021 and the current year.

The Philippines' electronic money statistics

Financial growth metrics are in line with EM but customer acquisition lags

Our comprehensive proprietary survey of 215 unlisted fintechs across 14 emerging markets (including 14 from the Philippines) suggests that financial metrics like revenues and operating profits for Filipino fintechs are growing broadly in line with other emerging markets. Although user growth is slower than elsewhere, average revenue per user is better.

However, we think the situation could change in the future. The Philippines has low financial inclusion and digital financial services penetration is still not strong. Therefore, with the right products and marketing activities from industry players, growth in their userbase could accelerate. As we have seen elsewhere, this could also mean that ARPUs and operating margins decline from current levels, but as these metrics could subsequently be improved (via better cross-selling and scale economies), such a scenario would likely be viewed by investors as a net positive for the sector. The improved capital inflows into certain industry players (as highlighted above) could be the catalyst for increased take-up of fintech services.

Fintech growth in the Philippines and emerging markets

Fintechs should gain the most market share in insurance, payments and lending products

We asked 900 consumers in 14 emerging markets about which types of providers were meeting their current financial services needs for different products, and which provider types they expect to use in three years. We used this data to estimate current and likely shifts in share of wallet for different types of firms.

Currently, fintechs in the Philippines have a 27% market share of the overall financial service industry, which is less than 31% for EMs. Moving forward, Philippines fintechs are expected to gain market share of around 9% points (above the average EM increase of 6%). This increase comes almost exclusively from exposure to financially-excluded customers. Note that these responses are unweighted; we think formal financial institutions would have a much higher share if our survey were value-weighted.

Financial service provider market shares in the Philippines

Over the next three years, fintechs are expected to gain market share in all 11 products which we surveyed from consumers, but the most notable gains are expected in general insurance, credit/debit card payments, and personal/vehicle loans. Currently, general insurance has the lowest market share of all products. On the other hand, market share for mutual/equity investment is expected to remain broadly flat. This suggests that there is an unmet growth opportunity in this area – only c1.3% of Filipinos invest in the stock market against the median of 2.4% in other EMs. Meanwhile, 4.0% of the Philippines population owns cryptocurrency, indicating there is a population with sufficient risk appetite and financial capacity.

Expected 3-year change in fintech market share for the Philippines

Philippines fintechs project a faster route to profitability than elsewhere

Approximately 60% of surveyed Philippines fintechs say they are currently profitable, which is broadly in line with emerging markets peers. However, over one-third are expecting to become profitable within the next year, which is a higher proportion than for EMs, meaning that the path to profitability for Philippines fintechs appears quicker than it is for other markets.

Fintech profitability survey

Targeted KPIs: Profitability measures, transaction value, and bottom line growth

According to our survey, Philippines fintechs are targeting profitability measures, transaction value and bottom-line growth. The focus on transaction value is in line with EMs, but Philippines fintechs’ emphasis on becoming financially strong contrasts with other EM firms that are typically more focused on product and service innovation, and enhancing their user numbers.

Profitability measures (such as ROE or ROIC)

Once a certain level of scale is achieved, fintechs can typically then focus more on generating returns for their investors. Firms targeting ROE/ROIC improvement include Starpay (Payments) and MyTrade (Investech).

Transaction value

This is one of the most frequently targeted KPIs cited by Philippines fintechs and is also one of the key metrics used by investors to assess operators, particularly in the payments segment. Firms actively targeting transaction value growth include Coinage (Blockchain) and TrueMoney (Payments).

Bottom line growth

Bottom line/profit growth can be achieved by better monetisation of the userbase and increasing operational efficiency. Fintechs targeting bottom line growth includes MoneySmart (Comparison platform) and Cloudstaff (Fintech software solutions).

The KPIs most targeted by Philippines fintechs

The competitive landscape for Philippines fintechs

Philippines fintechs consider incumbent/traditional financial services firms as their biggest competitors. Many people either do not trust fintechs or prefer to rely on existing providers (eg informal arrangements), which may carry lower costs and prove to be more convenient. Combining the responses of the informal sector and family/friends (for example, personal lending, remittances) shows this to also be a major competitor, cited by 29% of surveyed respondents.

Main competitors of Philippines fintechs

Philippines fintechs’ customer-value proposition: Convenience, security, and seamless execution

According to Philippines fintechs, the top values they provide to their customers are convenience, security, and seamless execution. Compared to fintechs in other EMs, those in the Philippines are less focused on providing unique offerings and personalised services.

Convenience

Accessing financial services from their smartphones is much easier for customers than visiting brick-and-mortar channels such as branches, or even ATMs. This could be a key area of differentiation, given that EM fintechs place less emphasis on this area than their customers. Fintechs that cite convenience as their key value include Akulaku (Lending) and SAVii (Lending).

Security

Cybersecurity is a key concern for the financial services industry; both fintechs and incumbents need to continually enhance their security protocols to protect consumer data. Blockchain technology can improve transaction security, making it more difficult for hackers. Fintechs that mentioned increased security as one of their key values include Cashalo (Lending) and BeepToPay (Payments).

Philippines fintechs' key values

Key fintech success factors: Transaction speed, strong management, funding access, competitive pricing

The top four factors Philippines fintechs credit for their success to date are fast transaction speed, strong management, access to funding, and competitive product pricing. In contrast to fintechs in other emerging markets, Philippines firms give less credit to innovative service offerings or having a user-friendly platform.

Fast transaction speed

This is the success factor most cited by Philippines fintechs. They are leveraging open banking APIs to access fast and secure gateways for processing transactions. Blockchain technology is also increasingly being employed. Firms that cite fast transaction speed as a success factor include First Circle (Lending), and Starpay (Payments).

Strong management

This factor is important for specific fintech spheres such as blockchain (due to challenges of implementation), investech (where developing the products to match clients’ and regulators’ needs can benefit from extensive industry experience), and lending (implementing complex technologies for credit risk automation). Fintechs citing strong management as a key success factor include Akulaku (Lending) and SAVii (Lending)

Access to funding

To effectively compete with big industry players and achieve scale, start-ups need significant funding for marketing, infrastructure and network-building. Funding has played a key role in the success to date of firms like Cashalo (Lending), and Cloudstaff (Fintech software solutions).

Competitive product pricing

This reflects customers’ price-sensitive mindset; our consumer survey indicates that pricing is an important factor in the purchase decision for 48% of Filipinos. Fintechs can offer low prices given their greater automation and focus, use of outsourcing, and innovative distribution solutions. Companies citing competitive prices as a key success factor include MyTrade (Investech) and BeepToPay (Payments).

Philippines fintechs' key success factors

Fintechs’ plans: Technology investment and raising funds for growth

According to our survey, the top-most priorities of Philippines fintechs are investing in technology and raising funds for growth. Other areas of focus include expansion into new markets, increasing use-cases for existing products and boosting management expertise. In contrast to other emerging markets, firms in the Philippines are less inclined towards introducing new products and services.

Technology investment

Investment in technology is the top strategic priority for Philippines fintechs. Continuous investment in technology ensures that consumers get the best available features most securely and conveniently. Some fintechs planning to invest in technology include Coinage (Blockchain) and Saphron (Insurtech).

Raising funds for growth

As highlighted previously, traditional incumbents are the main competitors of Philippines fintechs. To compete effectively, these fintechs must raise funds to build scale, brand equity, and distribution capacity. Firms that plan to raise funds for growth include First Circle (Lending) and Cashalo (Lending).

Philippines fintechs' future plans

Targeted fintech innovations: Big data, cryptocurrency and reducing fraud/defaults

Philippines fintechs are planning to innovate in big data analytics and risk management, cryptocurrency functionality, and using technology to reduce fraud and defaults. In comparison with other emerging markets, fintechs in the Philippines are more focused on big data analytics and risk management, and place less emphasis on chatbots/virtual assistants and augmented reality.

Big data analytics and risk management

Fintechs are using big data analytics to generate value from collected data. Meaningful insights can help to improve products and services, uncover new opportunities, boost operational efficiency, and effectively manage risk. Firms that plan to innovate in this area include MoneySmart (Comparison platform) and TrueMoney (Payments).

Cryptocurrency functionality

Fintechs recognise the growing adoption of cryptocurrency by their customers. According to our survey, almost 64% of the Philippines fintechs already accept cryptocurrency while 21% are planning to do so in the future. Fintechs targeting cryptocurrency functionality innovations include PayMaya (Payments) and SAVii (Lending).

Using technology to reduce fraud and defaults

Covid-19 has accelerated digital adoption but has also opened up opportunities for cybercrime. Fintechs are investing to counter this threat. In addition, better scoring to avoid credit defaults or to reduce adverse risk selection is important for fintechs in areas such as lending and insurance. Some firms planning to innovate in this area include Starpay (Payments), and Saphron (Insurtech).

Philippines fintechs' targeted innovations

Key constraints to fintechs’ growth: Market size, regulations, and competition

The overall size of the market, regulations, and competition are the key growth constraints faced by Philippines fintechs. This is broadly in line with what fintechs in other emerging markets are saying.

Size of the market

It can be difficult for industry leaders to outgrow the overall market, particularly as the number of competing fintechs rises. We think market size is impacted by customer awareness; for example, insurance is a less-penetrated product in low-income countries and blockchain is still an area where corporates and individuals have limited understanding. Coins (Blockchain) and Akulaku (Lending) are among the fintechs that cite market dynamics as a concern.

Regulations

Fintech operations differ considerably from those of incumbents and rulebooks are being continuously updated as regulators catch up with the pace of innovation in the industry. Regulatory oversight also tends to rise as fintech firms grow larger. As a result, fintechs are often subject to considerable regulatory uncertainty, which can act as a barrier to investment and growth. Philippines fintechs that think regulations are a constraint to their growth include MyTrade (Investech) and First Circle (Lending).

Competition from fintechs, traditional financial institutions and the informal sector

Fintech start-ups face many challenges. Incumbents are actively developing digital products, while fintechs themselves are ratcheting up the competition. Informal enterprises can benefit from lower operating and regulatory costs, giving them a pricing advantage. Philippines fintechs highlighting this growth constraint include Saphron (Insurtech) and BeepToPay (Payments).

Philippines fintechs' key growth constraints

Fintech regulatory hurdles: Cryptocurrency, data protection and consumer protection regulations

Philippines fintechs consider cryptocurrency, data protection and consumer protection requirements as their biggest regulatory hurdles. The importance of data and consumer protection issues is broadly in line with other emerging market fintechs. But Philippines fintechs are less concerned about capital requirements and KYC/AML regulations compared with elsewhere.

Cryptocurrency regulations

The Philippines is one of the top countries for cryptocurrency adoption, according to Chainalysis (they rank it 15th). The central bank has been increasing regulatory oversight over the virtual asset providers; the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has expanded its scope to include conversion of fiat into digital currency and the exchange, transfer and safekeeping of such assets. In addition, The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) is expecting crypto curbs in the Philippines over the next five years due to the increasing awareness of its risks. Fintechs considering cryptocurrency regulations as a hurdle include Coins (Blockchain) and TrueMoney (Payments).

Data protection regulations

One way fintechs can generate competitive advantage is through the collection and utilisation of customer data. Data protection regulations play a key role in determining the extent to which these companies can obtain and use such information, and the processes they must follow to protect it. Fintechs citing data protection regulations as a hurdle to their growth include MoneySmart (Comparison platform) and Coinage (Blockchain).

Consumer protection regulations

Fintechs have access to consumers' funds and their personal details. Regulators are heavily focused on protecting consumers in both these areas, which can limit fintechs’ scope. Fintechs citing consumer protection regulations as a hurdle to their growth include PayMaya (Payments) and Cloudstaff (Fintech software solutions).

Philippines fintechs' main regulatory hurdles

Five Philippines fintechs to watch

Mynt (Payments)

Mynt provides a broad range of services including payments, remittances, loans, business solutions and platforms. Founded in 2015, it is a partnership between Globe Telecom, the Ayala Corporation and Ant Group. The company also operates two fintech companies: GCash, a mobile payment application; and Fuse, a microloan service provider. In November 2021, Mynt raised US$300mn in funding, valuing the firm at US$2bn and making it the lone fintech unicorn of the Philippines. At the time of the fundraising, the company claimed to have 48mn users with daily app log-ins and daily active transactions of 19mn and 12mn, respectively.

Tonik (Digital banking)

Tonik is a digital bank providing retail financial products, including deposits, loans, savings accounts, payments, and cards. It is the first neobank to receive a digital banking licence from the central bank (BSP). The company is now focusing on rolling out its consumer lending products to help promote financial inclusion. In February 2022, Tonik raised US$131mn in a Series B round led by Mizuho Bank and other investors that would help fuel its expansion across the Philippines. In addition, the firm thinks that the partnership with Mizuho Bank could help accelerate its future international growth.

Philippine Digital Asset Exchange (Blockchain)

The Philippine Digital Asset Exchange (PDAX) is a cryptocurrency exchange that allows Filipinos to buy, sell, and trade digital assets against the Philippine peso in real-time. It is available both online and via mobile application. The firm is licensed and regulated by the BSP. In addition, the company manages a secure wallet allowing users to send and receive cryptocurrency from peers. In February 2022, PDAX raised US$50mn in a Series B round led by Tiger Global that it intends to use to build safe and accessible infrastructure for the digital asset economy.

PayMongo (Payments)

PayMongo is a payments infrastructure company that helps small businesses and entrepreneurs accept online payments. Its products include a payment API that can be integrated into websites and apps, allowing businesses to accept payments from bank cards and digital wallets like GrabPay and GCash. In October 2021, PayMongo partnered with GCash to offer buy now, pay later services. This month, PayMongo raised US$31mn in a Series B funding round, bringing the startup’s total investment to US$46mn.

BillEase (BNPL)

BillEase, powered by First Digital Finance Corporation, is a buy now, pay later application that divides customers’ payments into interest-bearing or interest-free installments, making online shopping affordable and convenient. It allows customers to build formal credit records. For customers who don’t have such a credit record, it uses alternate data sources to assess credit risk. Founded in 2017, the firm’s services can now be availed at more than 500 merchants. In January 2022, BillEase raised US$11mn in a Series B round led by BurdaPrincipal Investments, which brings its total funding to US$15mn.

The Philippines fintech landscape

In the table below, we have catalogued over 200 firms actively contributing to the Philippines fintech ecosystem. These businesses are active across a broad range of sectors ranging from payments and lending to insurtech and investech.

Philippines's fintech landscape

Appendix

The Philippines ranks second in our emerging markets fintech attractiveness index

The table below summarises the results of our analysis. Countries with poor financial sophistication are shaded green, as this environment offers a key growth opportunity for fintech disrupters. Countries with strong technological infrastructure are also shaded green; fintechs in such markets are more able to capture growth opportunities. The Philippines scores well on both measures. See here for further details.

Summarised Fintech Country Ranking scorecard

Note: To request access to data from our EM Fintech Country Rankings, please click here.

Related reading

Other emerging market country fintech guides can be accessed here.