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Mastercard partners with tonik, Phl’s first digital-only neobank, to accelerate financial inclusion

Through this partnership, Mastercard will further enhance tonik’s market proposition by enabling the latter to issue a range of electronic payments products that taps into Mastercard’s global network and extensive business intelligence when tonik launches operationally later this year.

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Mastercard announced a new partnership agreement with tonik, a two-year-old startup which recently received a bank license in the Philippines.

Through this partnership, Mastercard will further enhance tonik’s market proposition by enabling the latter to issue a range of electronic payments products that taps into Mastercard’s global network and extensive business intelligence when tonik launches operationally later this year. 

Internet penetration in the Philippines is at 67 percent, and one third of the population is millennials—many of whom are digital natives. However, according to the 2017 Financial Inclusion Survey by Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), over 70 percent of the country’s population is unbanked. At the same time, 60 percent of Filipinos who are either in the formal banking system or can become part or the system, are willing to use offerings that are digitally focused. Achieving financial inclusion by leveraging financial technology has been top on the agenda for Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, which has set the goal of doubling the number of Filipinos with formal bank accounts by 2023. 

Driving digital financial inclusion and expanding access to formal financial services for the unserved and underserved population is one of the cornerstones of tonik’s proposition. As a mobile-only digital bank, tonik is able to develop highly customized, scalable banking solutions that fit the needs of a customer base that is incredibly diverse, ranging from people who are just making their first forays into the formal banking system, through to customers who have held accounts and used financial products for most of their adult lives. Because of its digital-first approach, tonik is well placed to meet consumers’ needs and demands irrespective of where they live, work and do business. 

“We want to empower the underserved and unserved Filipinos by giving them simple, accessible, and fast digital banking experiences. We want our customers to easily gain familiarity with transacting and banking digitally in order to help them harness the full potential of the rapidly changing digital economy. Our partnership with Mastercard is about injecting more speed, scale, and performance into all facets of our business. Having immediate access to Mastercard’s global payment network, safety & security technology, data and analytics services, AI technology, and cybersecurity capabilities will be essential to tonik’s growth and success in today’s digital-first reality,” said Greg Krasnov, CEO & Founder, tonik

Orchestrating this partnership is Mastercard Fintech Express, a tailored program which provides fintechs such as tonik with increased speed-to-market, access to a suite of digital-first products, and a cross functional team of experts to provide strategic counsel and advisory across product, partnerships, licensing and legal to be able to successfully build their offerings. 

“The entire payments ecosystem thrives when fintechs have access to the technology they need to reach scale and make finances widely accessible. tonik exemplifies an agile and innovative fintech whose ambition of driving financial inclusion in the Philippines through digital-first products and seamless consumer experiences is closely aligned with Mastercard’s mission to connect and power an inclusive, digital economy that benefits everyone. tonik’s ability to secure a bank license as a startup is nothing short of exceptional and Mastercard is delighted to partner with them to enhance the Philippines’ digital banking space and to boost the nation’s financial inclusion journey,” said Rama Sridhar, Executive Vice President, Digital & Emerging Partnerships and New Payment Flows, Asia Pacific, Mastercard.

tonik will launch with a full range of banking services including a transactional savings account with a debit card, savings and term deposit accounts with attractive interest rates, as well as a range of consumer loans in Q3 2020. Debit Mastercard cards will be available to customers at the end of the year and will allow customers to transact and withdraw cash from everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Additional services such as loans, credit cards, and fund transfer categories will be made available in the course of 2021.

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Empowering employees through techy can supercharge returns – Lenovo

IT leaders are reporting a 5x return (USD $1 spent on these programs yields USD $5 of increased staff productivity, organizational agility and customer satisfaction), with many expecting to increase their investment by nearly 25 percent in two years.

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A new Lenovo and Intel commissioned study, “Empower Your Employees with the Right Technology,” conducted by Forrester Consulting, has found that the impact of technology in improving the employee experience (EX), or an employee’s full journey in an organization, is much more than anticipated — highlighting opportunities for organizations’ IT decision makers (ITDMs) in today’s remote and hybrid work environment.

The key insight points out that while companies on average see a 5x return on investment in the EX driven by increased productivity, organizational agility and customer satisfaction, ITDMs and employees disagree on technology priorities. While ITDMs are prioritizing strategic IT integration, software and service needs, employees are more focused on their fundamental daily technology experience.

This suggests that business leaders have room to collaborate more closely with employees on their IT purchase decisions to elevate team engagement, increase customer satisfaction and improve the bottom line.

Bridging the divide between employees and IT decision makers

With organizations now shifting their focus toward remote and hybrid work, ITDMs are upgrading devices, software and services as part of EX initiatives to improve team engagement and satisfaction. Based on the research findings, this has led to more tech spending. IT leaders are reporting a 5x return (USD $1 spent on these programs yields USD $5 of increased staff productivity, organizational agility and customer satisfaction), with many expecting to increase their investment by nearly 25 percent in two years.

Yet employees still report that they’re frustrated with their PC hardware and software experience:

  • Fifty (50) percent of respondents say their PC devices are out of date or insufficient (e.g. not fast enough, reliable enough or powerful enough)
  • Forty-six (46) percent note their software frequently malfunctions and disrupts their work
  • Only 33 percent are extremely satisfied with the current laptop provided by the company
  • Only 30 percent said their laptops or desktop work well for cross-collaboration.

Importantly, ITDMs and employees both define employee satisfaction with technology as a crucial goal. Satisfaction with technology also has the greatest observable positive impact: nearly 60 percent of ITDM respondents noted a more than 10-percent increase in EX scores by improving employee satisfaction with technology. It’s evident that IT departments and the technologies they offer are instrumental to driving EX, beyond conventional factors such as human resources, worker benefits and more.

Yet again, there is a clear disconnect between employees and these ITDMs, whose primary concerns are the longevity of their technology investments rather than its impact on team engagement. According to the study, whereas 84 percent of ITDMs believe employees can easily switch to a different PC device if their current one needs to be replaced, only half of employees agree that’s an available solution. Ultimately, both ITDMs and employees agree that refresh cycles can be improved and better aligned. In addition, ITDMs believe the integration of hardware and software will impact EX the most, whereas employees simply want devices that work consistently.

Prioritizing employees to better leverage technology investments

The study outlines a few key recommendations on how business leaders can better improve employee engagement and business outcomes through technology investments.

  • Realign investments. While many ITDMs are investing resources into exploring newer, emerging technologies such as 5G, augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR), and artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning tools, based on worker respondents’ feedback there is an opportunity to focus first on immediate employee priorities—building a strong foundation of collaboration tools and PC devices—while IT departments explore more advanced technology tools in parallel.
  • Reorganize priorities. Decision-makers should also focus on improving EX vs only focusing on specific productivity metrics. In fact, according to the study nearly 80 percent of ITDMs plan to focus on improving employee engagement over the next few months.
  • Focus on PCs. PCs have become critically important to employees, with 77 percent of full-time employees saying that PC devices are a critical factor in their daily work and collaboration with one another. A renewed focus on PCs can make the greatest impact on the bottom line and customer satisfaction, with most respondents agreeing that PC devices are critical to increasing customer satisfaction (69 percent), revenue growth (62 percent) and employee retention (55 percent).
  • Involving employees in PC investment decisions. Overwhelmingly (72 percent) of employees responded that listening to workers or getting clarity on what they need ranks in the top three of what companies should do to improve EX. This feedback is important, as employees understand their work devices’ value in driving business outcomes, based on technology factors such as performance, connectivity, reliability, portability, size/weight, battery life and more. Listening to employee feedback can go a long way towards making the case for better technology options.

“Our new study findings further affirm our belief in the strategic importance of technology as critical investments, and not as simple transaction costs. The right deployment of technologies delivering returns can far exceed the initial expense of new business models and opportunities,” said Christian Teismann,  President, Commercial PC and Smart Devices Business, Lenovo. “Given employees are a company’s greatest asset, the study further maps out opportunities to uplift the return on technology investment by focusing on PC devices and collaboration tools, while better involving employees in purchase decisions. In today’s new remote and hybrid work set-up, these steps are pivotal for companies in yielding opportunities that go far beyond the initial spend on their technology.”

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Local startup 1Export brings global opportunities to MSMEs

In tough times like these, taking steps toward exporting may seem expensive, confusing and risky, especially since a profitable return is not certain. This is where 1Export comes in.

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As the current economic downturn continues, exporting has become one of the last remaining opportunities for micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSME’s) hoping to hold on through the pandemic. Many such businesses are finding a life line through the local startup 1Export, an end-to-end platform for cross-border trade and fulfillment.

With 1Export’s help for all their exporting needs, MSMEs aren’t just staying above water, they are growing. 1Export has won numerous awards internationally (Gojek Xcelerate 2019 & SoGal San Francisco 2020 Global Pitch winner), because of its focus on making exporting easier for businesses big or small. It remains to be the largest export e-commerce platform in the Philippines in terms of revenue share.

In tough times like these, taking steps toward exporting may seem expensive, confusing and risky, especially since a profitable return is not certain. This is where 1Export comes in. Led by young professionals in their respective fields, 1Export is a one-stop, holistic solution for businesses looking to expand their market range without needing to carry the numerous pitfalls associated with exporting their products.

Exporting through technology

As the process of becoming compliant begins, 1Export holds the hands of its partners by finding them the appropriate buyers for any and all of the products that they wish to export. Currently, 1Export offers its services to 9 international markets, with each market having their own sets of standards that each business must comply with in order to successfully export their products. These compliance standards make exporting more complicated than it needs to be. 1Export smooths out  the process with a tech platform, which makes creating the correct documentation for any country simple. In addition to this, MSME suppliers can also conveniently use automated labeling through a simple upload of a photo, making the path to going global a seamless one. With a myriad of services to adequately equip partner suppliers with their exporting needs paired with a 100% port clearance rate, 1Export presents an opportunity unlike any other with a potential to earn in US dollars. 

“Exporting is often viewed as a tedious and laborious process. For most MSMEs, creating a truly globally competitive brand remains just a pipe dream. We believe that, when done right, exporting can be a powerful tool to showcase MSME talent, uplift the economy, and change the lives of people. At 1Export, we aim to harness the innate ingenuity, talent and beauty of the country and showcase it to the world.” Daniel Remo, Chief Operating Officer of 1Export says.


Hope for our MSMEs

Mel Nava, CEO of 1Export, during their pitch in SoGal San Francisco 2020

There are a lot of opportunities that MSMEs can take advantage of while in this pandemic. Global trends point to an increase in purchase of essential products, but as the curve flattens in other countries, people are looking for things that provide comfort or happiness. So the question at the end of the day is, how do we make MSME products relevant? According to Mel Nava, Chief Executive Officer of 1Export, “We make them globally competitive so that they can export, we help them export so they can sell more, stay afloat, and serve the needs and wants of other markets”. Because travel is limited, cross-border trade has increased and to bring products people want and long for now need to comply with trade regulations abroad.

While the pandemic has been the cause for the demise of a lot of businesses, there is hope for the economy because platforms like 1Export addresses the various problems of MSMEs brought about by exporting: a need for international partners, compliant products, and finding guaranteed buyers. In a time of disarray and economic decline, 1Export has created a system that works for both its buyers and suppliers, making it a complete and sustainable technology platform of the country.

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MSME sector is key to COVID-19 inclusive recovery for Phl – UNDP

Majority of the MSMEs still need assistance to recover from their losses. At least 60% of the respondents reported that they have not received any assistance from any stakeholder (gov’t, private sector, NGOs, and others) yet. Among the most pressing needs of MSMEs are access to credit facilities, tax breaks, and deferred loan payments.

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Photo by Luke Chesser from Unsplash.com

Despite the lifting of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila, majority of the micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) are still temporarily closed or are operating at decreased capacity—an indicator of the difficulties they are facing in getting back to their business operations according to the recent survey conducted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on the impact of COVID-19 on MSMEs in the Philippines.

MSMEs comprise 99.5% of business establishments in the Philippines and are employing approximately 63% of the country’s workforce. In the past years, MSMEs were responsible for 40% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). During the second quarter of 2020 and almost four months since the community quarantine was put in place, the country’s GDP sank to 16.5% as the Philippines experienced recession due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the first MSME online forum organized by the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF) and UNDP Philippines through SIKAP (Synergizing Recovery Initiatives, Knowledge, and Adaptation Practices for MSMEs), the results of the survey were presented to more than 170 MSME owners and development organizations.

The survey also showed that out of the 285 respondents, 81% reported experiencing low consumer demand. This low demand alongside shortages related to transportation and logistics, and lack of financing capacity were cited as the primary challenges of MSME owners in resuming their operations.

Since the implementation of community lockdowns, MSMEs continued to suffer from disrupted cashflow and continuing expenses, which led to income losses. Close to 80% of the respondents reported a reduction in their average monthly income from April to June compared to their average monthly income prior to the pandemic. While 20% of the respondents tried to retain employees with full pay despite income losses, their cashflow was so severely affected that 25% of them began to lay off employees.

“We are in the middle of a once in a lifetime medical emergency. I know you are worried about your health, scared to open your businesses. But for the sake of our families and ourselves, we have to take that step and reopen while maintaining safety standards. We have to find a way to keep going as long as we need to,” said Butch Meily, President of PDRF.

MSMEs comprise 99.5% of business establishments in the Philippines and are employing approximately 63% of the country’s workforce. In the past years, MSMEs were responsible for 40% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

To address the adverse impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, MSMEs started implementing adaptive business measures. Among which are digitalization or the use of online platforms for their business transactions, cost reduction, diversification of products and services, utilization of non-cash payment options, and allowing employees to work from home.

However, despite these adaptive measures, majority of the MSMEs still need assistance to recover from their losses. At least 60% of the respondents reported that they have not received any assistance from any stakeholder (gov’t, private sector, NGOs, and others) yet. Among the most pressing needs of MSMEs are access to credit facilities, tax breaks, and deferred loan payments.

“MSMEs play a crucial role in the Philippines’ efforts to recover from the crisis brought about by this pandemic. UNDP will continue to support Government and its development partners to facilitate their sector representation in policy dialogues and program planning so as to capitalize on available solutions that could prevent further closures of MSMEs. We are also working very closely with the private sector to provide online resources and to ensure that all MSMEs can get the right access to e-commerce trainings to support their digital transition. Digital infrastructure in the country is key to enable the development of a new market space online,” said Enrico Gaveglia, Officer-in-Charge of UNDP Philippines.

The result of the survey intended to provide data-driven recommendations that can help the Inter-Agency Task Force come up with more effective policies and programs that are responsive to the immediate and long-term needs of MSMEs.

Majority of the MSMEs still need assistance to recover from their losses. At least 60% of the respondents reported that they have not received any assistance from any stakeholder (gov’t, private sector, NGOs, and others) yet. Among the most pressing needs of MSMEs are access to credit facilities, tax breaks, and deferred loan payments.

Among these recommendations were the integration of MSMEs in public sector procurement, a balanced and complementing mix of monetary and fiscal policies including wide-reaching government guarantees for MSME lending that will support overall spending, and mechanisms to increase household consumption in the country. Other recommendations included addressing the challenges in public transportation to ensure safe and efficient mobility of people, products, and services, and the strengthening of supply chain management by integrating more local suppliers.

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