Digital banking may have been slow to arrive in the Philippines compared to its Asian neighbors, but things are changing fast. Consumer demand for innovative digital financial services is surging in the wake of economic recovery post-COVID 19 driven by a young, technophile base, leading to the rapid expansion of mobile payment platforms such as e-wallets and digital apps of traditional banks.
According to a 2023 McKinsey report, by the end of this year, three-quarters of the population will have internet access, with mobile penetration nearly universal. Having one of the fastest population growth rates worldwide, the country’s bankable population is projected to rise from 65 million in 2022 to 85 million by 2030— a 30 percent increase.
For both traditional banks and new entrants (digital banks, or so-called neobanks), key to taking advantage of the vast digital opportunity will be to overcome customer worries about security and complexity.
Hence the challenge for these digital banks—currently six in the Philippines authorized by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP)— would be to build trust and confidence in customers in a country with low financial services saturation and a preference for face-to-face interactions.
A “phygital” experience
These scenarios comprise the classic stuff of customer rants and complaints on social media having to do with digital and online financial experience: Money transfers freeze in mid-process, one-time PINs don’t arrive, unauthorized deductions and transactions between channels, “help centers” run by AI chatbots tapping responses off a playbook, or email messages that go unanswered for days, sometimes even weeks. Meanwhile, frustrated customers, hearing no real person at the other end with a solution or explanation, are left with little choice but to stew and wait for as long as it takes.
Indeed, online transactions save time, expense, and processes, but people mostly form opinions and reach decisions through a mental calculation prompted by biases, emotions, and memories. Thus personal relationships count for much and, ironically, the more digital the world becomes, the greater the need for the human touch.
A new phrase has cropped up in the banking industry: human banking. This means the provision of digital banking services with a personalized and humanized customer experience. It focuses on human support so that customers feel that their needs, and even wants, are understood and addressed.
GoTyme Bank Philippines, a joint venture between the Gokongwei group of companies with Tyme Bank, a multi-country digital banking group, went live in October 2022. GoTyme offers the convenience and security of digital banking supported by best-in-class personal customer service available 24/7, making for a unique high tech-high touch approach to banking.
Access to next-generation banking with GoTyme starts with a hassle-free account opening process that only takes 5 minutes via a free app, or with a free personalized Visa ATM debit card at kiosks staffed by bank ambassadors in Robinsons retail spaces nationwide. So, yes, the “high touch” part of its brand promise is not limited to touching screens and tapping keys; rather, customers interact with real people who provide valuable assistance every step of the way. This is the best possible world of digital and physical— “phygital”—customer engagement.
“The main reason people are going to join the first phase is the customer service, which is quite different from traditional digital banks,” says Albert Tinio, GoTyme Bank co-CEO, adding that “this is what GoTyme wants to be famous for.” He notes that Filipinos, being highly sociable, appreciate human interaction when the chance presents itself: “Sometimes we even see people in an ATM queue enlisting security guards for assistance.”
GoTyme Bank prides itself on championing human-centric banking: While fully digital, it has a raft of people who will assist customers every step of the way—from the staff of GoTyme kiosks deployed in Robinsons retail networks across the country, where new customers can meet with human bank ambassadors who will handle the entire onboarding process safely right there and then, requiring only one valid government-issued ID—all in about five minutes, to Robinsons supermarket cashiers and other retail locations that serve as deposit and withdrawal (DEWI) points.
From the get-go, GoTyme Bank provides the human connection to its user-friendly app developed by people who understand the value of straightforwardness. This assures customers that they’re in for a preferred banking service which gives them priority and is ready with solutions to their specific needs.
Nate Clarke, GoTyme Bank CEO, said the brand immediately appealed to consumers with an awareness of, and appetite for, world-class banking products. “This will start with payments and savings, but there will be a move to investments and credit. The second phase that follows is actually more about serving all Filipinos, including those outside the cities.” He adds that GoTyme Bank is a twist on digital banks, “through a combination of a human and digital touch.”
This GoTyme human touch also includes the opportunity for customers to call, chat with, or email the company via customer success advocates (CSAs) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Tinio says the bank holds out its human banking’s CSA promise: “This simply means there is always one person [the CSA] that will deal with a customer’s concern, a CSA will pick up a call or revert in an email in two minutes, and GoTyme will respond to an inquiry within three hours.”
Simple, sleek, secure
It’s early days yet, but already, there is no shortage of satisfied customers, at least with their initial GoTyme experience when they chose to sign up. There is indeed one CSA that responds to calls or emails with warmth and the desire to help in two minutes, and a resolution to concerns within three hours.
Customers have reported easy account opening via the GoTyme app and a no-fuss claim of the free ATM debit card at the kiosks in Robinsons retail outlets. Those who completed the sign-up process at the kiosks have praised the friendly efficiency of bank ambassadors, with some going the extra mile, like sharing their personal WiFi hotspot with customers without phone data. At another kiosk elsewhere in the city, a group of five Gen-Xers were deeply impressed by the patient coaching of these ambassadors – from account opening and getting their debit cards, to making a deposit at the cashier and explaining how the system works.
Indeed, GoTyme is out to provide premium banking experiences to every Filipino. It sums up the bank’s superior offerings thus — “Go Send, Go Shop, Go Save”—all of which make sending money, shopping and saving more convenient with the GoTyme Bank Visa debit card, which can be used for both online and in-store transactions here and abroad.
With Go Send, GoTyme Bank customers can easily and securely transfer funds from the app, with three free transfers a week, on top of the free GoTyme to GoTyme transfers.
The Go Shop feature improves on the customers’ shopping experience. There’s even better news for all travelers and shoppers: GoTyme Visa debit card is the smarter way to shop. Made available to all newly onboarded customers instantly at the GoTyme kiosk and its virtual token in the app, one can use it in retail stores or online and when one travels across the globe. In a country where rewards are mostly offered by credit cards, GoTyme Bank Visa debit card is one of the very few offering rewards. With it, one can earn points from millions of merchants worldwide, making it the best rewards program for a debit card in the country.
With each swipe of the GoTyme Visa debit card at partner Robinsons stores, one earns 3x Go Rewards points. Before one knows it, all the Go Rewards points add up to a substantial amount as customers get from 1 percent to 4 percent rebate on their purchases. The points earned can be redeemed for a merchandise at Robinsons retail shops, or at the touch of a button in the GoTyme app, for cash in one’s bank account.
With Go Save, customers will earn a 5 percent savings interest with no worries on promo durations, minimum balances, or maximum caps — an aspect of the bank’s promise to be more human-centric and sincere. GoTyme Bank has also introduced “Save Your Change”, which allows customers to save by rounding up change to the nearest P10 or P100 and putting that amount automatically into their Go Save accounts.
People-powered financial inclusion
GoTyme Bank has employed a diverse mix of professionals who will play a crucial role in bringing new financial services to an increasingly sophisticated customer base in the Philippines.
“We come from a wide range of industries, and I think what brought us together is a genuine desire to build something — to build and leave a legacy,” says Tinio. “We come from banking, and there are also fintech people, there are people [from fast moving consumer goods], there are telco people, there are logistics people, and all of these people are freely, organically sharing their experience and contributing to building a new service.”
Clarke adds, “We were quite deliberate regarding recruitment… Because it’s very different recruiting people for something you're building from scratch, compared to recruiting for something that is already running. We wanted to build a diverse group… but on top of that, we wanted to attract people with a few scars and some unfinished business. We’re looking for people who have had success in our careers, but who have also had some near-big misses where they felt like they didn’t quite succeed in their endeavor, but are ever-persistent in wanting to improve and deliver greater impact with their next shot.”
GoTyme Bank’s human-centric approach dovetails with the BSP’s move to transform the country’s financial sector, with digital banks as partners in advancing financial inclusion by leveraging on digital technology to offer products and services that bridge the market gaps in the unserved and underserved segments. It’s easy to see, even this early, how GoTyme can help ease the stumbling blocks to financial empowerment and access by providing quality, lower-cost banking within reach of the population.