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71% of Filipinos remained unbanked in 2019 -BSP

Majority or 71% of Filipino adults still did not have any financial accounts in 2019, results of the central bank's Financial Inclusion Survey (FIS) revealed.

According to results of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas' (BSP) FIS, Filipino adults who own accounts grew to 29% in 2019 from 23% in 2017.

The 6-percentage point increase in account penetration is equivalent to an additional 5 million Filipinos opening an account within the two-year period, faster than the 0.6-percentage point in 2017 from 2015.

The BSP attributed the growth to e-money accounts which rose to 8% in 2019, from only 1% in 2017. Microfinance accounts likewise grew to 12% from 8%, while bank accounts barely moved from 11.5% in 2017.

"As uptake of e-money accounts significantly grew, so did the share of account holders who use their account for payment transactions – such as fund transfers and bills payment – which more than doubled to 39% in 2019 from 18% in 2017," the BSP said.

Account ownership among CLass E grew to 27% in 2019 from 14%, while the top income group Class ABC posted an account penetration of 43%.

The latest survey was conducted in February to March this year, before the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

"The number of Filipino adults who are unbanked is estimated at 51.2 million, out of a total adult population of 72 million in 2019," the BSP said.

"Lack of enough money remains the topmost reason for not having an account, as reported by almost half (45%) of the unbanked," it added.

Other reasons reported were the perceived lack of need for an account, and the lack of documentary requirements.

"The perceived lack of need for an account may be linked to the lack of awareness that an account can be a tool for convenient digital payments," the central bank said.

This comes even as over 80% of the unbanked have various payment transactions such as receiving benefits and wages, as well as paying fees, which they do primarily in cash.

"All these highlight the importance of financial and digital literacy as well as adequate consumer protection in promoting uptake of digital financial services," the BSP said.

Moving forward, the BSP said the better results are expected given the accelerated adoption of digital financial services amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"The pandemic has provided significant momentum to digital finance, as more Filipinos recognize and appreciate the benefits -and necessity- of transaction accounts and digital payments," it said.—AOL, GMA News