GCash, BPI to work closer amid competition from digital banks: Ayala’s JAZA

Warren de Guzman, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 24 2021 04:34 PM

Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala. Handout
Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala. Handout


MANILA - There will be more “visible” collaboration between Ayala-led firms BPI and GCash as the Philippine finance sector becomes more digitalized with the entry of purely digital banks, BPI chairman Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala said on Friday. 

GCash, the most widely-used fintech app in the country, curiously partnered with Malaysia’s CIMBank instead of BPI for the app’s GSave service.

But Zobel said there is close collaboration between the two Ayala firms. 

“Maybe it is just not visible,” Zobel said in an exclusive interview with ABS-CBN News. 

Zobel maintained the two have been instrumental in each others’ success and this collaboration will become more apparent “over time.”

"GCash tends to deal with smaller amounts and a broader community; BPI is tending to deal with larger amounts and a separate community. But the fact that they are beginning to increasingly interlink with each other, that people move seamlessly between one institution and another, will make both of them stronger.”

GCash recently announced it now has over 46 million users and finally turned a profit in June this year. 

BPI meanwhile is one of the three largest private banks in the Philippines, which also offers digital banking services. 

“Frankly, I like to think BPI has been way ahead of the curve on its digital journey. These are discussions we’ve had for 5 to 10 years in the past,” Zobel said. 

Zobel said they are unfazed over the entry of purely digital banks in the industry. 

“The fact that there are others, competition, is part and parcel of the capitalist system, anything that is good for the customer, is also good for the country. We’ve learned to compete in an open field, and I like to think that we as an institution have stayed ahead of the game.”

GCash’s main competitor PayMaya was even awarded one of 7 digital banking licenses by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. 

The 5 other digital banks are GOTyme of the Gokongwei Group & Singapore-headquartered Tyme, the State-owned Overseas Filipino Bank, Tonik Digital Bank Inc. (Philippines), UNOBank, and UnionBank of the Philippines, Inc.’s Union Digital Bank. The 7th digital bank has yet to be announced.

“Competition also makes us all sharper, brings out new qualities in us, and forces us to keep rethinking and upping our game. It is not a problem, it is part and parcel of our history. We’ve been around a long time, and I’m sure we are gonna be around in the future.”

Zobel said BPI is also working toward the spread of financial literacy in the Philippines, and they hope to be a bigger player in microfinance. 

"We have the BanKo organization, under BPI which is a microlender, and we are also digitizing that as quickly as we can. We want to be as relevant to the broader community of Filipinos, who are sometimes just entering the formal banking industry for the first time.” 

BPI will leverage technology so they can bring down interest rates for the microfinance market, Zobel said. 

Besides helming the Ayal Group, Zobel also hosts BPI's new online show ‘After-Six’ on YouTube where he interviews some of the country's most prominent business and political personalities and innovators. 

An upcoming episode will see him interview fellow business leader Lance Gokongwei.

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