With growing demand for online and mobile alternatives sweeping across Asia, new digital players are changing the market and transforming the banking experience for individuals and businesses—driven no doubt by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the digital banking landscape, which saw a remarkable rise in the use of online and mobile options to move money, goods, and services across time and space.
While not every Asian digital bank is a success story, those that have created a sound business model and scaled effectively have flourished. Common among these new and profitable digital banks are a strong partner ecosystem and differentiated customer value proposition that allows for faster scalability and monetization.
The current economic turbulence has also increased the public’s demand for reliability and transparency in the banking and financial services to which it subscribes. Some of the biggest security issues associated with online banking, for example, include malware or phishing scams to steal customers' personal and financial information. While online banking is safe, hackers are forever at work, contriving new ways to evade security measures. Such glitches and blips in the system have upset many a customer or served as a cautionary tale for those with lingering trust problems with technology.
GoTyme Bank Philippines, a joint venture between the Gokongwei group of companies and Tyme Group, which was launched in October 2022, is well aware that trust is the make-or-break factor in securing a foothold in the banking business.
This relatively new bank merges the trusted Gokongwei group brand and its multi-industry operations with Tyme’s globally proven digital banking platform and experience to add an exciting new player to the country’s banking community.
Working from its headquarters in Singapore and hub in Vietnam, the Tyme Group provides product, technology, data analytics capabilities to its banks in South Africa and the Philippines.
Hot on the heels of the success of TymeBank in South Africa, launched in 2019 and now Africa’s largest digital bank, GoTyme Bank—one of the six licensed digital banks of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP)—has set its sights on repeating success here in the Philippines.
All of the world’s most iconic brands are “at war with something,” notes Nate Clarke, GoTyme president and CEO, and one of the founding members of Tyme. “At GoTyme we’re at war with unmet financial potential,” he says, adding that many Filipinos do not have access to financial tools to maximize wealth.
BSP data show that Filipinos with bank accounts increased to 56 percent from 29 percent in 2019, which remains relatively low compared to neighbors like Malaysia, where 88 percent of the population holds a bank account, and Thailand with 96 percent. While GoTyme Bank will help address the remaining unbanked population over time, its primary focus is addressing the unmet need in terms of higher-value banking products such as credit, investments, and insurance.
Banking is a trust game. Trust is the biggest strategic challenge facing new banks around the world. Clarke says, “Luckily for GoTyme, we have a couple of trust accelerators that other new entrants don’t have: the backing of the Gokongwei group and Tyme, and our unique business model which is a hybrid of digital and physical systems.”
Perhaps the most valuable thing that Tyme brings to GoTyme is experience—lots of it. For the last five years Tyme has been building, running, and scaling banks, each time becoming better, faster, and more efficient—with the needs of the market and the customer always seen and heard. “We’re not new to digital banking and we’ve done it at scale with 7 million customers in South Africa,” Clarke says. “GoTyme may be one of the newbies in digital banking in the country, but its experience in digital banking goes beyond the expertise of its employees and into that of its shareholders.”
He adds that GoTyme “gets to leverage Tyme’s existing products so customers will soon see that GoTyme’s pace of product development will surpass those of other digital banks in the country.”
Tyme’s resources have similarly grown exponentially, attracting top-tier international investors and shareholders. “It recently closed a Pre-series C capital raise that brought in an additional US$77.8 million, much of which will be deployed here in the Philippines to accelerate the growth of GoTyme,” says Clarke. Tencent, the lead investor in Tyme’s US$70 million Series B extension raise in December 2021, participated in this pre-Series C round and increased its stake to become TymeBank’s third-largest shareholder.
How GoTyme Bank differs
GoTyme Bank is looking to unlock the Filipino financial potential through next-level, next-generation banking. Clarke says, “It’s not merely about giving accounts to people, but providing them high quality banking experiences previously reserved for the premium market. Less than 3 percent of the Filipino population have access to credit, investments, and insurance. We’re hoping to provide access to these.”
Since its launch last year, GoTyme now reports having more than 500,000 customers—a feat made possible by the bank’s focus on providing seamless digital products and services supported by a human touch, which makes for more personal service and greater empathy. This “phygital” business model—a combination of physical and digital systems—is key to making all the difference. At the current expansion rate, it is likely to exceed its original goal of 5 million customers within 3 years.
“There has to be somewhere in between a cash-based society and a cashless society, and we call it ‘phygital’,” says Albert Tinio, GoTyme co-CEO. “Our view is that digital banks are very well-placed, and GoTyme positions itself here, where we are more convenient than an e-wallet, and we are as safe or even safer than a traditional bank.”
Tinio adds, “We offer customers instant account opening and a free debit card at kiosks staffed by bank ambassadors across Robinsons retail locations nationwide.”
Today, GoTyme has more than 300 kiosks in the Philippines, with plans to expand to 450 by end-2023. These kiosks are capable of capturing personal data and identification documents, including biometrics and fingerprints, and can then print and release for free a Visa debit card in about five minutes unlike other banking options that may take up to five working days.
Tyme’s experience in South Africa, which, like the Philippines, has low financial literacy, has shown the high demand in domestic remittance. These remittance centers in South Africa are usually owned by supermarkets, which then gave rise to the idea for “supermarket banking” in the Philippines.
The partnership with the Gokongwei group puts the GoTyme Bank squarely in 54 malls and more than 300 retail locations with 120 million visits recorded annually.
Clarke says that through Gokongwei group’s existing physical ecosystem, and Davi Analytics Ventures Inc., which houses more than 8 million Go Rewards loyalty customers, GoTyme is set to raise the bar in digital banking.
He adds that GoTyme measures the real cost of acquisition not in terms of the cost to get a customer sign-up, but rather, the cost of getting the customer active. This is where the combination of ambassadors and supermarket cashiers hits the spot: Clarke says that after getting a customer to sign up and activate the Visa card, the supermarket ambassadors will walk the customer to the cashier to teach them how to use their account. Literally within minutes of opening an account, a customer can immediately transact.
GoTyme’s peerless perks
That’s just for starters. GoTyme customers also enjoy a range of products and services. Among these are sending money between GoTyme accounts with no charge, and up to three times per week, free, to other banks; earning 3x Go Rewards points at Robinsons stores, 1x everywhere else and a points booster with Cebu Pacific; and a savings account with a 5 percent per annum interest rate (no missions to complete, no deposit caps, no minimum balance requirements). GoTyme deposits are insured by Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation up to P500,000. Soon it will roll out products to meet customer needs for credit, investments and insurance.
Unlocking the financial potential is at the heart of GoTyme Bank’s mission—a breath of fresh air in a space dominated by traditional banks that focus their propositions on a minority of the population. Research has found that more than just being merely a legacy of the pandemic, new digital banking players in developing countries can make material impact on an economy’s progress by accelerating the adoption of modern financial products that act as the sustainable fuel for growth.