BSP cites surge in online payment accounts for easy access to gov’t aid

MILLIONS OF new accounts have been opened with financial institutions to facilitate the receipt of government aid, mainly the Social Amelioration Program (SAP), but also to enable users to make digital payments and access credit during the pandemic, the central bank said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic actually induced a change in behavior in our consumer. Four million new accounts were opened digitally (from March 17 to April 30) and based on our data, 7.5 million accounts were opened to facilitate the distribution of the social amelioration program benefits,” Rochelle D. Tomas, deputy director for Consumer Empowerment Group of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said at a Home Credit Philippines (HCPH) virtual media forum Wednesday.

Consumers gravitated to digital transactions in recent months due to quarantine restrictions, Ms. Tomas said.

The central bank targets a 50% share for digital payments out of all transactions by 2023.

Online payments accounted for 10% of transaction volume in 2018, against 1% in 2013, according to a United Nations Better than Cash Alliance report. By value, e-payments comprised 20% of the total in 2018, from 8% in 2013.

The BSP said in 2019, only 29% or 51.2 million adults held accounts with financial institutions. By 2023, the BSP aims to raise that share to 70%.

Sheila Paul, chief marketing officer of HCPH, said the company has observed a shift in buying behavior among its clientele.

“What’s interesting is we observed the increase in purchases of laptops and appliances. Before, mobile (devices were) our biggest (category) but now we see an increase in purchases of laptops, appliances, and bikes,” Ms. Paul said.

Due to the pandemic, HCPH made some of its services accessible through an online app, including loan applications, balance inquiries, and contactless payment options through a QR-enabled credit card.

HCPH also maintains an online marketplace with goods that can be claimed at partner stores.

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