Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Aerial view

Philippines: 2 more digital banks commence operations after central bank approval

The Philippines now has two more digital banks, bringing the total number to six. This is after the country’s central bank issued licenses to GoTyme and UnionDigital Bank, which have commenced operations.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) announced on August 24 that all six digital banks are now operational and will play a significant role in the bank’s goal to digitize payments.

“The operations of digital banks support the BSP’s Digital Payments Transformation Roadmap, which aims to digitalize half of the total volume of retail payments in the country, and onboard at least 70% of all Filipino adults into the formal financial system by 2023,” the central bank said in a statement.

Tonik Digital Bank and Maya Bank were the first to receive authorization in Q1 this year. The latter had been operating as PayMaya back in its digital payment days, but rebranded in May as it pivoted into a digital bank.

In Q2, BSP granted licenses to UNOBank, Overseas Filipino Bank Inc., and most recently, GoTyme and UnionBank Digital. The former is a joint venture between Singaporean digital bank Tyme and Filipino conglomerate Gokongwei Group. The latter is a digital subsidiary of UnionBank, a top 10 Filipino bank with $14 billion in assets.

In the Philippines, a digital bank has no physical branches and processes financial products through electronic channels. An entity must meet the threshold capitalization of PHP 1 billion ($17.8 million) to qualify.

For now, Filipinos will not be expecting any new digital banks as the BSP said in 2021 that it would cap them at six. It defended its stance by pointing out that its neighbors Singapore and Malaysia only have four and five digital banks.

The digital banks will play a big role in the Southeast Asian country’s blockchain sector. Already, Maya offers its users digital asset purchases, announcing the feature in April. UnionDigital Bank also says it will allow its users to leverage blockchain, although it has yet to delve into digital assets. 

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