Investors bullish on digital banking in the Philippines

Written by Kapronasia || May 21 2024

The Philippines is one of Asia’s most promising digital banking markets thanks to a favorable combination of underbanked consumers, island geography that limits the footprint of physical bank branches and incumbents with average digital capabilities. That said, it will take time for online banks to be profitable, and in March, the Philippine central bank (BSP) said that just two of the official digital lenders – which it did not identify – are profitable and it may take five to seven years before the others reach that milestone. Investors, however, appear to be willing to play the long game in this market segment.

The six digital banks operating in the Philippines include UNO Digital Bank, UnionDigital Bank, GoTyme, Overseas Filipino Bank of state-run Land Bank of the Philippines, Tonik Digital Bank and Maya Bank. According to the Digital Bank Association of the Philippines (DiBA PH), these six online lenders have raised over US$700 million since 2021. The value of online lenders’ deposits almost doubled to P69 billion in 2023 from P35 billion in 2022, while during that same period, loans grew 127% from to P25 billion from P11 billion.

In February, Singapore-based fintech UNOAsia, which operates UNO Digital Bank, raised US$32.1 million in a pre-Series B funding, bringing its total funds raised to US$75 million. It plans to use the funding to boost its lending and insurance offerings. “In just fifteen months since its commercial launch, UNO Digital Bank secured accounts with a million customers and amassed US$100 million in deposits, predominantly within transaction, savings, and time deposit accounts,” Manish Bhai, the digital lenders, CEO, said in a statement.

In March, Tonik, which is headquartered in Singapore, confirmed that it had laid off multiple employees as part of a strategy to reach profitability. While the firm’s lending business has been growing briskly, its financial performance in 2022 suggests that more work is needed to develop a profitable business model. In 2022, Tonik reported total losses of US$37.6 million.

An interesting point to consider is that one of the largest fintech firms in the Philippines is not a licensed digital bank – but operates like one in many regards due to its network of partnerships – and the amount raised by the sector would be even larger if it were included. That company is Ant Group-backed Mynt, which in late 2021 became the Philippines first “double unicorn” with a valuation of US$2 billion. Currently, Mynt has raised a total of US$475 million over several funding rounds. GCash, the flagship payment platform of Mynt, had been planning an IPO for the second half of this year, but could hold off until 2025-2026 depending on macroeconomic conditions.