“These digital tools have empowered Filipinos to be more resilient.”
As the country is now slowly trying to ease out of what is hopefully the end of two hard years of repeated lockdowns and depressed economy, Filipinos have shifted to cloud-based technologies with digital tools that provided a virtual safe harbor from the COVID-19 virus. These digital tools have empowered Filipinos to be more resilient to the devastating impact of the pandemic.
This is reflected in the 2021 report on the readiness and maturity of cloud computing innovation and adoption in terms of the regulatory environment and support by the Asian Cloud Computing Association. The report ranked the Philippines third, behind Singapore and Japan.
However, the increasing adoption of these digital solutions has also created new challenges for Financial Service Institutions (FSI) and their frontliners in this new environment as they anticipate increasing engagements with clients.
Stratbase ADR Institute President Prof. Victor Andres “Dindo” C. Manhit pointed out in a recent online forum, “Digital Readiness for Banking Frontliners,” that “the growth of the digital economy through e-commerce, fintech and digital banking has become the cure to many of our financial ailments. But as frontline workers have gone digital, many lack the readiness for optimal and safe use of digital technologies.”
He challenged policy makers not to view digital readiness issues from the whole of government, but for the whole of society. Both the public and private sector for digital transformation must benefit from the enabling services of the financial industry.
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Director for Technology Risk and Innovation Supervision, Mr. Melchor Plabasan recognized that financial inclusion can be best achieved by digital transformation and have always been supportive of measures that will address gaps when it comes to providing financial products and services.
“Given that technological innovations move quickly, we must always be on our toes to ensure that we keep in step, staying light and nimble, so that we are able to fulfill our mandates,” Plabasan said.
The BSP has issued a circular on the Open Finance Framework, which maps out new means of innovative financial services by empowering consumers, giving them better access to their data, both financial and personal information, so that they have access to services that are responsive to their needs.
Microsoft APAC Modern Work and Security Sales Leader, Mr. Kshitij Gopal, observed that countries that are opening up in Western Europe, the United States and even in the Middle East are seeing the pent-up demand for consumer interaction absolutely coming back.
Gopal said, “The reality is that the future of all our financial services, me as a customer, you as a bank, the regulators, all of us depend on investing in frontline workers, with security and compliance as top of mind.”
He advised, “When you think about frontline workers, the mantra that I ask you to think about is secure digital inclusion.”
Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) Chief Digital Officer Noel Santiago said that beyond technology, the biggest challenge they are grappling with right now is their rate of client adoption of digitalization is faster than their own labor force.
“We are retooling our technology infrastructure. We are re-skilling our people. We are re-engineering the processes to be more suited to digital engagement. We are re-engaging our clients on a digital front,” Santiago said.
Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) Executive Vice President & Chief Innovation Officer and Inclusion Officer, Lito Villanueva emphasized that digital transformation drives financial inclusion which in turn leads to digital transformation. He believes that we need to keep innovating in order to keep the momentum and the next great disruption is just around the corner.
University of the Philippines Law Center’s Director of Technology Law and Policy Program, Atty. JJ Disini, supported open finance as an opportunity for financial inclusion because of its potential to link directly with the unbanked people who are in remote areas.
In cases of phishing attacks, Atty. Disini proposed that there should be an ability for banks, all intermediaries in the middle, and most of all customers or the victims to recover through alternative dispute solutions. He suggested that to make the system stronger, all participants in these payment systems should be allowed to waive their deposit secrecy or the right to secrecy of their deposits in order to cooperate.
With new COVID-19 variants still a looming possibility, the digital readiness of our banks and their frontliners has become more critical for the continued responsiveness of our financial sector to serve all industries in our ongoing struggle to recover from the deep economic scars caused by this pandemic crisis.
Beyond the new solutions of digital technologies, gaps in the readiness of our human resources must be addressed to fully harness the most appropriate digital solutions for the seamless efficiency and security of electronic financial services.