Banking apps for SMEs launched

Some banks have started to provide financial services targeted at the needs of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), including online loan and payment facilities to assist SMES in their digital transformation and adaptation to the new normal.

UnionBank recently announced the launch of two platforms that seek to increase SME access to formal banking services including bank loans.

Launched last January 19, the SME Business Banking platform is an app that allows entrepreneurs to open a business account, according to an online presentation by Jaypee Soliman, vice president of the SME Group of UnionBank.

For now, the application is accessible via website but will also be eventually available via mobile phone, he said.

The app enables the SME to do all kinds of banking transactions including account balances, fund transfers, bill payments, and check deposits, said Soliman, who spoke at a recent webinar organized by the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation on various initiatives to enhance MSME resilience.

But the app will soon have other functionalities, too. Soliman said that by February or March 2021, it will have a free payment gateway that will enable SMEs to receive payment from their customers via GCash, Paymaya, credit card, over-the-counter, Instapay and through QR as well.

Instead of maintaining multiple accounts and e-wallets, SMEs, especially those doing e-commerce, just need to maintain one account and use it to collect from their customers, he said.

In addition, by the third quarter of this year, an accounting software will be installed on the platform so SMEs can tag their expenses and collections, and conduct forecasts for tracking their cash position.

The accounting system can be used later to provide data needed for the SME to secure emergency funding, said Soliman.

He said the one-click lending feature will be installed in the fourth quarter of this year to provide SMEs immediate access to emergency loans.

Because the financial position of the MSE can already be viewed through this accounting system, there is no need to submit documents or provide collateral, he added.

The second platform is SeekCap, which is an online lending marketplace for SMEs that “allows loan applications to be done digitally through having access and preference across loan products of multiple lenders,” according to UnionBank’s website.

Soliman said loans that may be availed of through this platform can range from P50,000 to P1 million and may be paid in installments for three, six or 12 months without need of collateral.

Average turnaround time for approval of loans is one day, and the loan will be credited to the applicant’s account on the next banking day.

On the interest rates, Soliman said these will be based on the applicant’s risk profile, rather than a single interest rate that applies to all.

At the same time, Soliman said the bank also has another platform for SMEs, the UnionBank GlobalLinker, a free global business-to-business networking platform.

To date, the platform has around 300,000 MSME members, of which 50,000 are Filipino business people and 250,000 come from other countries including India, Singapore, the US, UK, and Australia.

Moreover, users can create their own e-commerce website on the platform for free, said Soliman.

The app is available on the bank’s website and may also be downloaded to the user’s mobile phone. Signing up is free using the applicant’s Facebook, Google account or mobile number.

Small businesses have long decried their limited access to bank loans because they are considered high-risk clients and cannot produce the documentary and collateral requirements.

In the same forum, Jerry Clavesillas, director of the Bureau of Small and Medium Enterprise Development, said surveys conducted among SMEs showed that their top request is for financial assistance to overcome their economic losses.

SMEs have been affected the most by the Covid-19 pandemic and the government-imposed lockdowns that have cause the Philippine economy to ground to a halt and experience its worst recession in decades.

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