The inaugural week-long Philippine Fintech Festival (PFF)- World FinTech Festival-Philippines successfully capped its week-long run, bringing together leaders from the government, various industries, the technology space, and other strategic partners from the Philippines, ASEAN, and the rest of the world.
The inaugural PFF was convened by Digital Pilipinas, the largest private sector-led movement championing to tech up the country, and co-presented by Coins.ph, one of the leading advocates for blockchain and Web 3.0.
The PFF kickstarted the ASEAN FinTech month and was the first in a series of summits that was followed by the BOT Digital Conference in Thailand, to eventually lead up to the annual Singapore FinTech Festival (SFF) in November. The ASEAN FinTech month highlighted ASEAN as a global powerhouse for innovators and start-ups and served as a platform for increased collaboration between regional players such as the Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia, and other countries with strong digital initiatives such as Hungary, Israel, and Japan.
“These are countries who share ASEAN’s vision of innovation and unity born from a desire for mutual advancement. We are so grateful for their participation and they represent part of our larger imagination of the Philippines,” says Amor Maclang, Convenor of the World FinTech Festival-Philippines and Digital Pilipinas, of the collaborating countries. “Not just as a nation that lifts itself to prosperity through technology, not just as a good sibling to our ASEAN brothers and sisters, but as a welcoming gateway to ASEAN for other countries who wish to do business in our region. And perhaps as a soft landing for innovators from other countries, who, in the face of adverse political or economic conditions, need to temporarily relocate to where their culture of innovation will be preserved.”
Coins.ph CEO Wei Zhou spoke about seizing the current momentum for digitalization and collaboration: “To really succeed in this, we need users, capital, and projects which will help our community to take off—and that’s what we’re seeing being built here in the Philippines.” Coins.ph’s mission is to create an open financial system by providing everyone easy access to Web3 and digital assets.
More than 200 government, business, and educational leaders and 5,000 visitors attended the week-long festival to address longstanding socio-economic and infrastructure challenges with digital solutions in order to create a stronger, more anti-fragile, regional digital economy.
Tech pillars for progress
The PFF’s key pillars focused on the power of cooperatives in a digital world, and how big data, automation, and cross-border collaboration can enable seamless and safer payments across the region. Also discussed was InsureTech’s enhancement of the insurance process and making it more accessible to Filipinos. Green Finance was introduced as a stimulator for industries and the economy. Open Finance enables customers to securely use financial services from qualified third-party providers.
Other discussion points were the roles of NFTs, e-wallets, and digital currencies in unlocking a country’s potential in Web 3.0 and the Metaverse. EduTech can address the tandem challenges of learning deficiencies and information technology infrastructure investments to make the country’s education system more competitive. WealthTech increases prosperity opportunities for Filipinos. MarkTech empowers small businesses to improve their brand positioning and market reach. AgriTech provides a platform for agricultural workers and farmers to collaborate and find new customers, while boosting food security.
In addition to identifying the pain points in making cities smarter, thought leaders also discussed how real estate developers and cities are the benefactors of the innovations and promise of PropTech. They also agreed that while the industry was slow to adopt technology, there is now a recognition that digitalization and automation will play an increasing role in the years to come, for example in tackling environmental planning and mobility.
International agreements and collaborations
Recognizing the role of partnerships as key to increased integration of economies, a number of agreements have been signed during the PFF. The first was between the Department of Trade and Industry’s Philippine Trade Training Center and the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s Proxtera, on leveraging technology to improve accessibility between the Philippines and Singapore. Second, Digital Pilipinas and Hungary’s Digitális Jólét Program will advance joint business ventures through digital technologies with the support of Titanilla Toth, Hungarian Ambassador to the Philippines. Finally, Digital Pilipinas’ partnership with Affindi and Indonesia’s Financial Services Authority respectively will result in certification and knowledge sharing between the two and will be made available for Filipinos. Noel Bonoan, Vice Chairman and Chief Operating Officer, KPMG in the Philippines, agreed that the Philippines can learn from Hungary particularly when it comes to governance. He said that “from the KPMG perspective, we are looking at digitalization not just at the national level but also from a local level.”
Probably reflecting the viewpoint of the international partners was Israel’s Ambassador to the Philippines, Ilan Fluss, who said: “It’s all about creating bridges of innovation and technology between Israel and the Philippines.
Recognizing the role of the government in making integration more seamless, in a keynote address, David Almirol, Undersecretary, Department of Information and Communications Technology, shared that “at DICT, we are not a disruptor but we are an enabler for all of them. We are here to simplify the process. Our job is to stitch up the gaps to streamline the processes. Instead of us creating multiple integrations what we have to come up is an e-government gateway.”
Private sector recognizes the need for more cross-border collaboration, interoperable ecosystems
For the private sector, Yang Yang Zhang, Managing Director, Xendit Philippines, conveyed that Southeast Asia is yet to truly master scalability and to address that there is a need “to build one thing that extends across multiple markets, that extends across merchants of all sizes,” she said.
Erika Dizon-Go, Senior Vice President, Fintech Business Group Head, Open Finance and Digital Services Center of Excellence Head, Union Bank of the Philippines, agreed that there is a need to harness open finance and open economy so that “the next generation will allow possibilities, aspirations, and the industry’s role and purpose in society.”
To stimulate open finance, Winsley Bangit, CEO, G-Xchange, Inc., there is a need to solve “unique Filipino and ASEAN problems, so we can create the backbone of a strong and innovative FinTech community.”
George Royeca, CEO, Angkas, recognized that in addition to financial inclusion through platforms that encourages more people to participate in the economy, there is also a need to for the private sector and government to work together in order “to create the best products that will have the highest positive effect.”
April Tan, Head of Corporate Strategy of COL Financial, agreed that financial inclusion and more wealth can be achieved by allowing investors to “participate in the different ASEAN countries by buying shares, and access to financial resources can bring wealth growth.”
Sauray Bhattacharyya, CEO, Proxtera, agreed, saying that for the private sector and policy makers, “the focus right now is on cross-border partnerships; that is what we hope to strive for the years to come.” For Ann Cuisia, CEO and President, digiCOOP Technology Service Cooperative, all the partnerships, and collaborations should also trickle down to other organizations that are playing a big role in the economy, saying that “we are building ecosystems to provide digital services for cooperatives and their members, widely progressing mostly for the grassroots.”
Rico Bautista, President and CEO, Etiqa Philippines, and President, Philippine Life Insurance Association Inc. (PLIA), shared that “InsureTech will fundamentally reshape the insurance industry through new technology like artificial intelligence, smart devices, machine learning, and extended reality to transform and enhance aspects of the insurance process–all aimed at making insurance more accessible and making the world a better place.”
To cement the progress made thus far in the digital ecosystem, Michael Calma, Country Manager, ADVANCE.AI, said there is a need for “a whole ecosystem to not only secure the public but also to educate them through experiences that are sustainable.”
For Manish Bhai, Founder, President, and CEO of UNO Digital Bank, said that encouraging further cross-border collaboration is key to ensuring successful digitalization. He shared that “what we are trying to do is that everyone is a collaborator. It has to be cross-country, ASEAN, regional, and global.”
During the festival’s last day, Maclang looked to the future, saying, “This is just the beginning of our journey together. What we are doing here will go around Southeast Asia. Indeed, the train is fast moving to the ASEAN Fintech Month.”
Digital Pilipinas is the largest private sector movement for creating a technology and innovation ecosystem geared to bring about technological acceleration in the country. It convened Digital Pilipinas Festival (DPF), which was composed of the World FinTech Festival-Philippines (WFF-Philippines) and the Philippine FinTech Festival (PFF), in partnership with Elevandi, an organization founded by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to foster public-private-sector dialogue to advance FinTech in the digital economy.
Participating in the Philippine FinTech Festival were co-presenter Coins.ph and co-convenors Etiqa Philippines; Angkas; PayMongo, Union Bank of the Philippines; digiCOOP; ADVANCE.AI; NinjaVan Philippines; KPMG in the Philippines; UNO Digital Bank; Creador; Globe; PruLife UK; ACUBELAW; Gorriceta Africa Cauton & Saavedra; Brankas; GCash; COL Financial; and, Xendit Philippines. PFF was also supported by the following partners: Tech Exactly; StartUp Village; BounceBack PH; Fintech Philippines Association; FinScore; Mapúa University; and GeiserMaclang.
Media partners were the Inquirer Group of Companies; Inquirer Mobile; Inquirer.Net; Philippine Daily Inquirer; The Philippine Star; Manila Bulletin; United Neon; Coinvestasi; and CoinGeek.