Pia Roman, head of the Inclusive Finance Advocacy Staff of the Central Bank of the Philippines, has been confirmed as a speaker for this year’s Banking & Payment Technologies Conference to be held at Muson Centre over 4-6 May. She will be speaking in the Forum on “Transforming Access to Finance Through Branchless Banking” to be hosted on the first day of the conference by Enhancing Financial Innovation & Access (EFInA), supported by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), the MSME Project which is a joint pilot of the Federal Government of Nigeria and the World Bank, and the global microfinance body Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) based at the World Bank.
Pia Roman is involved in the overall microfinance programme within the Central Bank, specifically in the areas of policy, supervision and regulation, capacity building, advocacy and promotion as well as donor relations. The IFAS also handles broader issues of access to finance including credit information systems, product innovations and the application of technology in service delivery, among others.
Ms Roman previously worked for a microfinance NGO in New York, USA and a savings and credit organization in Nepal. She will be bringing unparalleled experience and knowledge to share with colleagues in the Nigerian financial sector. The Philippines has been a world leader in mobile banking, enabled by a progressive regulatory regime provided by the country’s Central Bank.
The Bank has consciously promoted “branchless banking”, defined by CGAP as the delivery of financial services outside conventional bank branches using ICT and non-bank retail agents. Because of its potential to radically reduce the cost of delivery and increase convenience for customers, branchless banking can expand coverage to new and previously unserved segments of the population.
In the Philippines where people with a mobile phone far outnumber those with a bank account, as in Nigeria, the use of such instruments have had a transformational effect on Filipinos’ access to finance. The current environment in the Philippines shows that the telecommunication companies have recognized this opportunity. In 2003 Smart Communications and in 2004 Globe Telecom launched the electronic money concept in the Philippines called Smart Money and G Cash, respectively. The Smart Money technology allows users to make purchases, pay and receive domestic payments and to receive remittances by loading or transferring money from a bank account into a mobile phone account or reloading a prepaid card (Smart Card) electronically through the mobile phone. The cash can be withdrawn from the phone account at either an ATM or one of the many SMART encashment centers which include retail stores and even fast food chains. The G-cash is a similar technology which provides the same services but does not use a debit card and instead just uses accredited cash-in and cash-out outlets via the mobile phone. The mobile phone is turned into an electronic wallet where transactions can be made through SMS. Usage volume is steadily increasing with an estimate of around 8 million customers with electronic money accounts.
Banks are actively making use of these available platforms in providing financial services, including microfinance services. This is seen as a revolutionary solution for low value payments and has dramatically lowered transaction costs for both the bank and the client, increased the productivity of account officers, decreased cash-on-hand risk and increased accessibility to the financial services.
The Central Bank of Philippines has been responsive to these developments and has worked assiduously to ascertain that useful technological innovation and experimentation continues to take place, while ensuring that the attendant risks are properly managed. As a result, more banks are now offering mobile banking activities. As of the end of 2008, 96 banks have electronic banking operations – an increase from only five banks at the end of 2005. Thirty-four are universal and commercial banks, 15 are thrift banks and 47 are rural and co-operative rural banks
Ms Roman will be joined by over 50 other local and international banking experts to provide an unparalleled educational programme over the three days of the conference, organized by Africa's leading ICT conference organizer, AITEC Africa. For full details and to register as a delegate, log on to www.aitecafrica.com or email email@example.com