Smart wants to expand mobile banking biz

By Lenie Lectura, Business Mirror

Posted at Oct 15 2009 12:43 AM | Updated as of Oct 15 2009 08:43 AM

MANILA - Smart Communications Inc. also plans to venture into microfinance, according to company president Napoleon Nazareno.

“We are also looking into it but we are not talking to any banks yet. It’s just a plan as of now,” he said in an interview.

Smart has recently partnered with the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) in offering mobile banking services to the bank’s more than 3 million BPI account holders.

BPI and Globe Telecom Inc. are both Ayala-controlled companies. The other day, BPI received Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas approval for the transfer of shares of Pilipinas Savings Bank Inc. to Ayala Corp. and Globe.

With this, BPI and Globe will each have a 40% stake, and Ayala Corp., a 20% stake, in the bank, which will be used as the vehicle for the Ayalas’ foray into the mobile microfinance business.

Pilipinas Savings Bank is previously a wholly-owned BPI subsidiary of BPI.

Nazareno said Smart is still in the early planning stage but is keen on exploring the new business. “It may not be this year yet. We have yet to coordinate with a chosen bank but we are interested. This will be a good venture. We are already taking part in mobile banking business.”

Smart, the country’s largest mobile phone operator, expects to double its mobile phone banking users in the next three years.

At present, Smart has registered one million active users out of the 21 banks it has partnered with. Aside from BPI, Smart recently entered into similar arrangements with BDO, Metrobank, EastWest Bank, Landbank and Union Bank. It will forge another agreement with PNB and Allied Bank soon.

“There is a lot education involved here. Our current one million mobile banking users will double in the next three years. Right now, it is growing. People will eventually appreciate the convenience of mobile banking,” said Nazareno.

BPI clients who are Smart subscribers now enjoy the convenience of doing a wide range of bank transactions through their mobile phones. The new BPI-Smart full-mobile banking includes features such as balance inquiry, fund transfers, bills payment, Smart prepaid airtime reloading and Smart money reloading.

There is no revenue sharing between Smart and BPI. The Smart subscriber will be debited P2.50 for each message sent.

To enroll for mobile banking, BPI clients must have at least one ATM-based deposit account.

BPI credit cards will be automatically tagged when ATM-based deposit account is applied.