“The reality is that nobody wants to spend time on banking, especially when it means taking time to visit the bank branches and waiting in line,” ING Bank’s Head of Retail Banking Mohamed Keraine said in an interview . This is where digital banks in the Philippines come in.
In a recent McKinsey study, researchers found that only 14% of Filipinos with bank accounts are taking advantage of their respective banks’ online capabilities. The researchers attributed this to the country’s lack of initiative in providing a digital banking experience.
But banking institutions should stay optimistic. In the same McKinsey study, they found that 65% of the respondents will consider opening an account with a trusted digital bank. While traditional banks relied on online banking websites and apps to make banking easier, they are without their limitations.
These limitations brought us to the technology we have right now: digital banking. As a flashy new tech, digital banking will definitely be a challenging concept to explain to the common Filipino. To help educate the masses, here’s a primer on how digital banks in the Philippines are changing the way we bank.
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What is Digital Banking?
In a nutshell, fully digital banking allows you to do all banking transactions right on your smartphone. It sounds too simple, but that’s pretty much what it is. Download the bank’s app, open a bank account, deposit money, and manage your account at the comfort of your home.
By containing the entire banking process on a single app, digital banking aims to make banking more accessible than ever. Here are just some of the benefits that digital banking brings to the table.
Advantages of Digital Banking
- Digital Processing – no documents or forms to sign
- Paperless Transactions – no receipts, invoices, paper products
- 24/7 Customer Service – no banking hours, call anytime
- High-Interest Savings – save more money when banking online
- Mobile Deposit – just take a picture of your check
- Easy Banking – no hidden fees, just do your thing
- Secure Banking – prevent hackers from snooping around
Disadvantages of Digital Banking
- Managing Cash Deposits – no easy way to deposit cash on hand
- Lack of In-Person Support – no quick way to ask for support
- More Prone to Cyberattacks – hackers can scam unsuspecting clients
Despite recent developments, digital banking in the Philippines is technically still in its infancy. Foreign banks are already making their presence known, while the country’s top banks are trying their best to catch up. Regardless, there’s no mistaking it—the future of banking is definitely here.
Digital Banking vs. Online Banking
“But we already have online banking,” you might say. Yes, online banking in the Philippines has been popular in recent years, but it has significant limitations. For one, you can only get access to online banking apps if you already have an account to a specific bank.
In order to open a bank account, you have to go to a bank and have it processed there. Also, you can’t make deposits to your account through online banking. You have to find deposit machines, which are not as abundant as ATMs, or you can go straight to the bank and have bank tellers deposit the money for you. It’s a minor complaint for some, but it’s a big deal for the folks in rural areas.
This is where the advantages of digital banking come in. Thanks to this latest innovation, you can now open a digital bank account in a matter of minutes. Just provide your basic information, take a photo of your primary IDs and signature, and presto! You now have a bank account.
You can also deposit money right where you are, although to some extent. Just take a picture of your check and the banking app will instantly deposit the money to your account. While it doesn’t work on paper bills yet, it’s still better than actually going out to the bank. Basically, digital banking is a lot like online banking, only better in execution.
Top Digital Banks in the Philippines
Leading the charge in the digital banking space is Dutch giant ING (Internationale Nederlanden Groep) Bank. Considered as one of the most prestigious banks in the country, ING Bank was the first one to explore the potential of digital banking in the country.
ING launched the first-ever fully digital retail bank in the Philippines in a press event hosted by James Deakin. The renowned TV personality showcased the capabilities of ING’s app to everyone.
“I opened my account online using the ING app and it took about 10 minutes in total before I received an account number. All I had to do was fill up some basic info, take a photo of my driver’s license and then use dynamic face recognition, take a photo of my specimen signature, and boom! I was up and running!” Deakin wrote on his Instagram.
They also partnered with PESONet, InstaPay, and 27 online payment channels to make deposits and fund transfers easier. And if that’s not enough, ING currently offers a 2.5% savings interest, higher than most banks.
Another relatively new player is Malaysia’s own CIMB (Commerce International Merchant Bankers) Bank. A banking heavyweight in ASEAN countries, CIMB Bank also realized how Filipinos are progressive when it comes to digital banking trends.
According to CEO of group ventures and partnerships Effendy Shahul Hamid, they envision CIMB to provide a “seamless and hassle-free” digital banking experience. Judging by the reviews of their apps, CIMB is currently on the right track.
As CIMB Philippines CEO promised during their launch, “We will encourage more Filipinos to seamlessly open a bank account and enjoy the benefits of having a relationship with a forward-looking bank.”
True to their word, CIMB Bank made sure to pack their app with lots of useful banking features. Aside from the usual digital banking features, CIMB Online Banking allows you to apply for a personal loan right from the app. Customers can loan up to PHP 1 million with zero processing and early settlement fees. Digital loans can get approved as fast as 24 hours.
Taking digital banking a step further is Tonik Bank, the first neobank in the Philippines. Officially launching in March 18, 2021, Tonik wowed everyone with their 6% time-deposit rate and up to 4.5% savings account interest rate. Being completely online and having no physical branches to manage allowed Tonik to offer such high rates.
According to Tonik CEO Greg Krasnov, Tonik aims to “romance” Filipinos to start saving up. “We started Tonik because we were fed up with how traditional banks mistreat their customers. The fact that 70 percent of the Filipinos remain unbanked shows that the tedious onboarding process of traditional banks and their ridiculously low interest rates do nothing to satisfy the needs of the consumers,” Krasnov said.
Tonik Bank also touted their use of advanced technology to reduce costs and improve Filipino’s banking experience by introducing more innovative services in the future. “In the long term we believe what we’re currently offering is definitely sustainable and they deserve it. People work hard to save money and they deserve to earn money from their money,” Krasnov said.
In July 2020, RCBC joined the digital bank race with their financial inclusion super app, DiskarTech. While it is currently using RCBC as its backroom, DiskarTech is currently applying for its own license, allowing it to utilize a digital-centric business model.
To entice users, DiskarTech introduced a 3.25% interest rate to their savings account, which is already higher than most banks. Aside from providing banking services, DiskarTech also offers other financial services like personal loans, insurance, and even telemedicine. And to add more incentive, they have a referral program that earns you PHP 30 for every successful registration.
All of these efforts boil down to DiskarTech’s aim to encourage 70% of adult Filipinos to open a bank account by the end of 2023. “We accelerated the addition of features as they prove to be more necessary today. More responsive and more relevant than ever, finally, DiskarTech is here for every unbanked and underserved Filipino,” RCBC President and CEO Eugene Acevedo said during the app’s launch.
Just like DiskarTech, Komo by EastWest was also a product of the pandemic. As a response to quarantine protocols, EastWest launched their digital banking unit in May 2020. Through the use of their app, users can open a savings account online with a 2.5% interest rate at the comfort of their homes. Plus, Komo offers insurance services with various coverages.
And while they have yet to apply for a digital banking license, Komo is still a great addition to the growing digital banking industry in the Philippines. “We’re always assessing developments in the industry including whether Komo will be spun off as a separate entity. We are always open as well to looking at strategic partnerships with the entities that can make the bank become a bigger player in the various fields,” EastWest President and CEO Josephine Gotianun-Yap said when talking about their digital initiatives.
Comparison of Digital Banks in the Philippines
Currently, these five digital banks are the top players in the digital banking industry. But how exactly do they compare with each other? Here’s a quick overview of each bank’s features to help you choose the right bank.
|Features||ING Bank||CIMB Bank||Tonik||DiskarTech||Komo|
|Interest Rate (p.a.)||2.50% (after the promo period)||Up to 3.10%||Up to 6%||3.25%||2.5%|
|Account Types||ING Savings Account||Savings Account||Savings Account|
|Money Transfer||PESOnet for sending money InstaPay for receiving only||PESOnet||InstaPay and PESOnet||InstaPay and PESOnet||InstaPay and PESOnet|
|Bills Payment||Not available||Available||Not available||Available||Available|
|Personal Loan||Coming Soon||Available||Coming Soon||Available||Not available|
|Debit Card||Not available||Available||Virtual Card||Not available||Virtual Card|
|Mobile Check Deposit||Available (banking days only from 1:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.)||Not Available||Not available||Not available|
In terms of interest rate, Tonik takes the cake with its 6% offering. While it’s only available for their time deposit, their regular savings account still earns you 4% for solo stashes and 4.5% for group stashes. This means your savings will grow quicker when you open a Tonik bank account.
Meanwhile, DiskarTech wins in terms of the variety of services you can avail. Aside from your banking needs, you can also get insurance, apply for a personal loan, and buy telemedicine vouchers from the app. Plus, you can pay utility bills and government fees, as well as buy load and gaming e-pins.
As for the application process, CIMB has the easiest since you can open one when you already have a GCash account. You can also manage your bank account from the GCash app. No need to download the standalone app since it’s the least polished app compared to the other digital banking apps.
For the best app experience, ING inches the competition by only a little bit. Since it’s the first digital bank to launch in the Philippines, they had a lot of time refining the bugs in their app. DiskarTech also has a smooth functioning app while Tonik and Komo still have some things to iron out.
There’s no doubt that a cashless future awaits the Philippines; it’s just a matter of when. And by the looks of it, that future is within our grasp. The challenge now is to convince a skeptical public to embrace digitization in banking.
Slowly but surely, digital banks in the Philippines will help Filipinos familiarize themselves with digital banking. Give it a few more years and eventually, anyone who can use a smartphone will now have their own digital bank account.
-  5 things you could do better with an all-digital bank (Inquirer, 2019)
-  Malaysia’s CIMB launches ‘all-mobile’ bank in Philippines (ABS-CBN News, 2019)
-  Digital-only bank Tonik woos with staggering deposit interest of 6 (Inquirer.net, 2021)
-  RCBC unveils financial inclusion ‘super app’ (Inquirer, 2020)
-  EastWest Bank mulls Komo spin-off as digital bank (Manila Bulletin, 2021)
Ricky is the zaniest Senior Content Writer at Moneymax, with over five years of writing experience in the digital marketing industry. He is a huge fan of pro wrestling, smartphones, and binge-watching. Follow Ricky on LinkedIn.