The week-long event of the World Fintech Festival (WFF)-Philippines culminated in the signing of three major partnerships between international organizations and tech associations in the country showing that continuous collaboration is the next step forward. The three panels also explore topics that are at the core of the fintech industry: the upskilling and training of the digital workforce, the rise of healthtech and insurtech, and the launch of Brand Digital Pilipinas.
The WFF-Philippines’ last day also featured some of the biggest names in tech: Senator Manny Pacquiao, Ernest Cu, Dr. Justo “Tito” Ortiz, Michelle Rubio, and Zayd Tolentino share their thoughts, plans, and outlook for the future of the Philippines as it embraces a digital transformation that ripples past tech players and out into the populace.
Restructuring of Academic Curriculum Needed to Turn Filipinos into Digital Superstars
The inability to process and analyze big data among fresh graduates has been pinpointed by company headhunters as one of the biggest problems in hiring new candidates. While the corporate side has been generous enough to provide short courses for new recruits to speed up competence and compatibility in the company, speakers in the upskilling and reskilling panel hold that commitment to life-long learning and the establishment of learning roadmaps must be in place to turn Filipinos into digital superstars excelling in the digital transformation sphere.
Sprout Solutions Co-Founder and Product Head Alexandria Gentry said that, apart from company-mandated training and self-initiated crash courses by newly minted workforce members, the government must also play an active role in revisiting and restructuring the academic curriculum. “We have to change the curriculum to accelerate learning, it won’t happen quickly. But we’ve seen that it is possible, we just have to take the first steps toward the right direction,” she said.
Affirming this was ImpactHub’s Chief Innovation Officer Diego Jose Ramos who shared that “there is a big gap in the reference between local and international standards. I’ve checked both education curricula. Even though programming courses start as early as the third year, the government must have a strong mandate to radically change the education system.”
UnionBank’s EVP and Chief Human Resource Officer Michelle Rubio gave a huge emphasis on the holistic learning of a company. “It is important to tech up the generation prior to these groups because they also add significant value. What we’re generally after is reskilling across the organization so that we can transform as a company as fast as we can and be able to reap the rewards of digitization. After four years of doing this, our team members have digitally adopted and acquired agile skills,” said Rubio.
Being equipped with technical skills is crucial to make Filipinos digitally-competitive. Yet Rubio reiterated that human skills are the New Normal era of 2021 nears. “From the old to the young, there’s essentially going to be a requirement for skill sets in the digital sphere. It’s going to be an opportunity for them to learn a lot because this is the way to the future. However, let’s not also lose our human skills: empathy, critical thinking, problem solving, and communication because these are just as important.”
The Rise of Healthtech and Insurtech: Only 7% of Filipinos are Insured, and 2/3 of Them Will Never See a Doctor
In the midst of COVID-19, society has had to shift to a tech-based economy with health-conscious citizens, making the Filipino market much more prepared for embracing digital insurance. Online insurance and telemedicine are being pushed to more accessibility for the Philippine market by way of digitization.
Zayd Tolentino, Chief Technology Officer of SingLife, noted how digital life insurance means equipping companies with the proper tools, namely Cloud, API, Big Data, Fintech, and Blockchain, in order to more efficiently tweak the overall experience for end-users. By creating a microservice ecosystem, most users have easier access to solutions that companies can better deliver at cheaper costs.
Massive amounts of data from the Ayala Corporation and Globe have made it possible for HealthNowPH to leverage on it and understand the pain points of customers. HealthNowPH’s CEO, Susana Beatriz Latay, broke down the steps to making solutions for the customer journey that encompasses healthcare, fintech, and telco. These bridge affordability and health together in a future-forward execution, allowing digital healthcare to connect with consumers, become more widely accessible, and actively address new medical challenges like outbreaks as they arise.
Technology is able to provide the avenue that both providers and patients alike seek out, creating a medium that lessens costs while providing the efficiency, safety, and security that most people are concerned about. Jay Fajardo, CEO and Co-Founder of Medifi, shared how its platform was designed to cater to the thousands of doctors seeking to onboard themselves. The data shows that ⅔ of Filipinos will never see a doctor but at the same time, 70% of doctor’s visits are unnecessary. The digitalization process of clinical care is meant to alleviate this, ensuring that the healthcare system is not overloaded and treatment is more readily available to those who need it. As the pandemic rages on, UX pivots and architecturing of infrastructure have become crucial points in making payments and interactions smooth processes for consultations.
One of the biggest challenges for inclusivity highlighted by the panelists is language. Technicalities and lack of English proficiency are pain points that need to be addressed by customer experience. There is a goal to improve this process for Filipinos in whatever dialect they prefer, especially in remote areas that would need better tech resources that can be provided by local government units. More collaboration between the public and private sector would pave the way for better end-to-end care, as payment plans, access to data, and resource management would truly speed up the process of integration for Filipinos throughout the country.
Tolentino remarked that agility is needed to quickly respond to the marketplace, “Insurance customers of today are not passive buyers. They are active customers. Before and beyond these tools, key to success is having a right mindset. Reshaping the culture is key. Having the right people with you can get you to where you want to go.”
Brand Digital Pilipinas Initiates a Whole-of-Country Digital Transformation
Aside from being a platform to improve the quality of life and economic standing of the Philippines, tech can also be a means to advocate for holistic change on a cross-societal level, through mass adoption and encouraging interconnectivity.
“Now is the Filipino’s chance to shine in tech, not just fintech. As this more than 7,100-island archipelago gets connected by ICT and the digital highway, not only will cities prosper and economies improve—but a new national consciousness will take root and emerge: a confidence in what the Filipino can do, individually and collectively. It is a movement that we call Brand Digital Pilipinas,” said WFF-Philippines Convener Amor Maclang.
The thrust of Brand Pilipinas is to unlock more digital avenues for the betterment of Filipinos by partnering with corporations and government agencies to influence a digital transformation. Some leaders in tech are already pivoting their services to fast-track digitalization–a necessity underscored by the events of 2020.
Globe CEO Ernest Cu shared that GCash usage has been at an all time high, with its 96 million customers even hitting 1T PHP at the beginning of December 2020 following a spike in cashless transactions. “It has grown from an app into a platform necessary for your daily tasks,” Cu explained. “GCash can unlock more digital avenues to make Pinoy’s lives better. In 2021, opportunities await for the Philippines to become the innovation hub of Asia.”
Senator Manny Pacquiao announced Pac Technologies’ newest launch for PacPay, a digital payment platform meant for global influencers, brands, and fans by early 2021, developed in collaboration with Remsea of Singapore. He urged more stakeholders to adopt a macro stance on digital transformation, “The true measure of success for technology is if you can attract as many of the right people using it. Now when I say right people, I mean that the people whom the technology is meant for, are using it to improve their lives. We call this mass adoption in the industry, and if the Philippines can be a country that leads mass adoption, we will definitely fulfil our vision of becoming a very competitive tech hub in the world.”
As Dr. Justo “Tito” Ortiz, Unionbank Chairman, said, “70% of Filiipinos are unbanked, digital transactions are 10%, and that is a great opportunity in trying to lift up and bring people into a financially inclusive community which is not just about making profit but about living a higher purpose. Digital transformation makes that possible.”
But while the impressive adaptability of the Philippines has allowed it to adopt tech rollouts originally planned to cover years in just a matter of months, the next goal is to maintain the momentum. “The fintech ecosystem in the Philippines is unique. The Philippines has a highly energetic population who aspires to have a better life, a tech-savvy, kind people who have a desire to come together to build a community of success,” acknowledged Sopnendu Mohanty, Chief Fintech Officer of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), WFF’s organizer.
“What will make this sustainable? Different players in this ecosystem working together with government agencies, corporations, and SMEs embarking on their respective journeys by making strategic investments,” answered KPMG Philippines Chairman and CEO Sharon Dayoan. “If we see digital transformation happening on the government level, we can get the biggest industries to tech up and work towards Brand Digital Pilipinas.”
3 Major Partnerships Launched During World Fintech Festival Philippines As the first World Fintech Festival (WFF) came to a close, the 5-day virtual even bore witness to three important agreements that were signed, signaling a collaboration between major fintech and business associations in the Philippines and from other countries. The first was a partnership among three Philippine industry associations that are heavily involved in technology the Philippine Association for Digital Commerce and Decentralized Industries (PADCDI), the Distributed Ledger Technology Association of the Philippines (DLTAP), and the Fintech Philippines Association (FPH).
The second signing was for a Philippine Industry Sandbox led by industry groups FPH and Fintech Alliance with support from the Financial Sector and Intellectual Property (FSIP) programme funded under the UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) Prosperity Fund (PF). The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) plays an observer role in support of the Industry Sandbox.
The last highlight was the launch of the ASEAN office of the Global Impact Fintech Forum (GIFT), a global non-profit think tank with 1000+ members from 40+ countries that helps find solutions to humanity’s key challenges by leveraging disruptive tech and fintech. Amor Maclang, WFF-Philippines Convenor, is the country advisor and Philippine representative of GIFT-ASEAN.
Maclang pointed out that the coming together of all these fintech associations, national and international, signified that the building of an ecosystem among the industry players was crucial when it comes to industry growth and robustness. “This is an era of cooperation, and industry unity is vital in fulfilling our vision of the digitization of the Philippines. The major players, SME heads, and busines leaders can gather together in events like the WFF, and through partnerships that arranged it such as the one between the MAS and the FPH. Together we can resolve the challenges that we face, seize the opportunities, and build a stronger foundation for fintech development.
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