Originally published by Manila Bulletin

A fintech startup and mobile wallet enabler are set to begin a pilot test program for a new generation of cloud-based financial services set to be launched in the country.

PearlPay has signed a pilot program agreement with BHF Rural Bank, Inc. (BHF), based in Dagupan City and operating in seven branches. The agreement marks the first time a Philippine rural bank will utilize cloud-based technologies such as core banking solutions (CBS), agent banking solutions (ABS), and white-label eWallet solutions, all of which are designed to reach customers with limited or no access to the Internet.

Previously, it was nearly impossible for rural banks to become part of the e-money landscape. The foremost concern is, of course, cost. It’s too expensive and risky for us. PearlPay will help us solve that challenge,” said Armando Bonifacio, President of BHF Bank

Bonifacio cited PearlPay saying the startup’s framework gives them the much-needed jump to pursue its digital transformation.

“This will allow us not only to offer better and high-quality services to our customers but also to become an excellent example of what rural banks could achieve given the right partners and resources,” he said.

“PearlPay is one of, if not, the most promising enablers out there,” he added.

For his part, PearlPay CEO Spark Perreras noted the millions of Filipinos who still remain unbanked or underserved.

“While this remains a challenge for economic growth, it also presents an opportunity for organizations to tackle the problem. In the previous survey of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), only around 23 percent of Filipinos have access to formal financial products, and PearlPay aims to improve the economic inclusion rate in the Philippines,” said Perreras.

As much as 94 percent of Philippine rural banks do not have access to electronic money.

“This is what we mean by ‘underserved.’ The rural bank customers don’t get the same services as what customers get in the major cities. Instead of doing convenient online banking to pay bills, they need to line up for hours to withdraw funds and pay their bills,” he said.

The startup is an end-to-end solutions (E2ES) provider for financial institutions.

End-to-end solutions mean providing application, software, system, and hardware requirements of the customer, such that the customer won’t need to source out other providers to achieve his or her requirements.

“As a mobile tech wallet enabler, PearlPay will not compete with banks. Instead, it will actually enable institutions in the Philippines like rural banks, schools, pawnshops, sari-sari stores, gasoline stations, and other micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs)” said Perreras.

The pilot program is set to last for 12 months.