|Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) won the Best Advance for Leading Under a Crisis at the RBI APAC Awards 2022 for its DiskarTech super app. This helped to disburse Filipino Covid-19 relief payments quickly and bring traditionally excluded groups into financial services (FS) by using the Taglish and Cebuano languages. It also has a micro-SME solution that created a financial hub for far flung communities via partnerships and provided a digital payment ecosystem to support farmers, fishers and consumers, among its many users.
The DiskarTech supper app is available online and has achieved its remarkable reach, including to fisher folk in the geographically disadvantaged islands of Sibutu and Sitangkai, due to its connectivity, mobile accessibility and network of agents acting as physical hub distributors of relief payments via micro-small to medium-sized enterprises (mSMEs) that get a fee for each transaction.
The network was established by partnering with social enterprise HAPINOY, the Philippine Association of Stores and Carinderia Owners (PASCO), and the Philippines Department of Trade and Industry’s Negosyo Center for inclusive programs, which targets mSMEs. The partnership on-boarded almost 20,000 micro-retailers nationwide, transforming them into “hubs for financial inclusion and education”, while at the same time helping them to stay afloat during the pandemic.
Small business owners have an option to earn extra income through the PAKIsuyo Services on the DiskarTech app, which allows them to charge the minimal service fee for every “on-behalf-of” transaction of basic services funneling funds through the super app, which includes many different functions.
Through strategic partnerships, DiskarTech has expanded its portfolio of partner merchants and billers, which now includes government agencies and services such as the Philippine Statistics Authority for civil registry certificates (MMDA) and the Social Security System (SSS), useful for disbursing Covid-19 relief payments. The government-controlled Home Development Mutual Fund (HDMF), commonly known as the Pag-IBIG Fund to provide finance and savings options for housing is also a partner, alongside the National Home Mortgage Finance Corporation, to name but a few of the many partners using the DiskarTech app to connect services across the Philippines.
RCBC’s DiskarTech app has proven to be a reliable partner of the government in accelerating the disbursements of emergency cash subsidies and financial aid at a time when many fellow Filipinos needs help fast during the Covid-19 outbreak. Its rapid rollout in July 2020 and escalating partnerships and add-ons, have truly provided leadership during a crisis.
The network created doesn’t just include mSMEs as the ‘Ayuda Arangkada’ Payout Partners that DiskarTech has established includes rural banks, pawnshops and microfinance institutions (MFIs), alongside the small retailers. Whatever was necessary to obtain reach was done and the program has undoubtedly made government services more accessible in the short-term for relief payments but also in the long-term, positively impacting financial inclusion. The DiskarTech ‘Ayuda Arangkada’ Program has disbursed US$401 million via the super app, benefitting more than 6.13 million households, covering 30.6 million Filipinos in all 81 provinces in the country.
"Using their DiskarTech accounts, small business owners can keep their profits and savings in a more secure platform, as well as more easily disburse payments to ordinary Filipinos who can themselves now open BDAs more easily."
These disbursement figures are correct for the end of December 2021. The mSME solution promotes digital sachet banking to ordinary Filipinos and has five products aimed at the sector, via so-called sari-sari small stores. There are also cash-in and deposit touchpoints nationwide via the 7-Eleven chain of convenience stores, drugstores, and many other options in more built-up areas where digital processes can be turned into hard cash to help the needy or ensure a smooth digital uptake. Many of the digital on-boarding and other functions can be used by the mass market ordinary customers as well as mSME sari-sari hosts, as per the below:
- Sari-sari Savings & on-boarding: micro-retailers and other SMEs can open their first basic deposit accounts (BDAs) via DiskarTech’s simplified on-boarding and electronic e-KYC (know your customer) validation procedure. This gets users into the digital finance ecosystem. For the mass market getting them to start a BDA is key to increasing the country’s financial inclusion.
There are 18 acceptable eKYC authentication options to make things easy for everyone, with the latest being implementation of the PhilSys National ID System in the Philippines. DiskarTech also gives prospective institutional clients a non-smartphone option to use web-based on- boarding systems instead, if it is preferred, through its batch enrollment system.
Using their DiskarTech accounts, small business owners can keep their profits and savings in a more secure platform, as well as more easily disburse payments to ordinary Filipinos who can themselves now open BDAs more easily than in the past. mSME savings in the DiskarTech can additionally earn a 3.25% interest rate annually with no required initial deposit, no maintaining balance, and no dormancy fees.
- Sari-sari Score: mSMEs can build a good credit profile through an alternative credit scoring algorithm on the DiskarTech super app. This will be highly beneficial for them especially when they apply for loans that will help them finance and further grow their businesses. This stimulates investment and growth in the country. For ordinary citizens there are new-to-credit options that use alternative data sources to drive decisioning, further opening up the loan marketplace.
- Sari-sari Insurance: DiskarTech also enables micro- businesses to be covered by affordable microinsurance services, with the support and recognition of the Insurance Commission (IC). This helps protect entrepreneurs from massive financial loss due to certain risks such as accidents, illnesses, and death. The sari-sari store insurance offered by DiskarTech in partnership with Malayan Insurance, means micro-retailers can now enjoy the benefits of up to 25,000-peso (US$478) worth of coverage for three months at an initial cost of only 35 pesos.
- Sari-sari Payments: Through the app, sari-sari stores become easy access points to everyday Filipino consumers when it comes to digital payment transactions, such as free fund transfers via the Instapay national Bill payment and electronic e-loading money services on stored value devices also becomes easy. Links to the PESONet payment rail is also possible.
By leveraging on the interoperability of these features on the app, micro-business eventually become effective partners in normalizing digital payments nationwide among the Philippines mass market, especially by encouraging the use of QRph, the country’s QR code standard, which enables an advanced mobile scan payment. This functionality encourages the further digitalization of the economy on mobile smartphones.
- Sari-sari Credit: With the launch of DiskarTech’s Digital Loans Marketplace in April 2021 on the super app, mSMEs can now enjoy services that will give them alternative financing options for their business via various microloan This could, for instance, help them increase their inventories for enhanced sales opportunities. Farmers could access agri and crop loans and so on. Business owners are given a set of options to customize their loan terms in a way that suits their financial capability.
The digital payment options outlined above are important as the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), the Philippine central bank, is keen to encourage digital payments and an accompanying ecosystem. Recent BSP data show that only 12% of mobile phone owners use their smartphones to perform financial transactions – and they are mainly in the upper class and metro Manila and Visayas areas, with the young the keenest users. By involving partners, merchants and micro-retailers, DiskarTech can be an important tool for grassroots financial education and digital literacy in the country for payments, and much else, helping to shape future mass market consumer behavior.The super app is helping BSP to achieve its vision of a fully digital and financially inclusive Philippines for all citizens. Indeed, strategic collaborations enabled by the BSP’s Open Finance Framework have allowed the DiskarTech app to easily diversity its menu of products and services, often using open application programming interfaces (APIs) as a means of data exchange to link data sources and services together across internal or external IT barriers. This ensures a seamless customer experience (CX) and powers data analytics to deliver better, more personalized end uses, and easier connectivity.
RCBC believes digital transformation drives financial inclusion. Financial inclusion in turn, fuels digital transformation, so it’s a win-win situation. Diskarte means creative resourcefulness and determined entrepreneurial hustling and advancement in the Tagalog language and the DiskarTech super app apes its name deliberately. The super app wants to help Filipino entrepreneurs, and its ordinary citizens, move to a digital ecosystem that can grow the economy and enhance financial inclusion.
DiskarTech has launched educational programs that empower current customers and prospective app users to become more financially literate. These programs include the Madiskarteng Pilipino Viber community, a first financial education collaboration with the social media giant Viber and the Financial Health Talk series, launched in partnership with various government agencies.
A million app downloads were achieved just one month after the super app’s launch in July 2020. To date, DiskarTech now has close to five million downloads. Even after only five months of operation DiskarTech had:
- A registered user in every province of the diverse Philippines landmass, even the far-flung islands.
- In less than a year, nine out of 10 users were in provinces away from Manilla, validating the app’s inclusive power.
- The user base is 70% millennial and Gen Z, and efforts are being made to spread usage among older groups.
By December 2021, transaction volumes and values on DiskarTech showed great promise:
- Transaction volume rose by an impressive 437% since its July 2020 launch.
- Transaction value increased by a whopping 8,4 1%.
- This translates to a gross transaction value of more than US$357 million (P18.3 billion) in the 17 months measured from launch to the end of last year.
DiskarTech’s partner deposits recorded a 26,568% & 6,632% surge in transaction value and volume respectively, admittedly from a standing start, with over US$155 million (P8 billion) in cash-in value being handled by the new ecosystem controlled by the super app, which has truly earned that moniker.