77% of Filipinos remain unbanked — BSP

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 11) — Around 77% of Filipino adults do not have bank accounts, according to the latest survey by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

In its 2017 Financial Inclusion Survey (FIS), the central bank announced that only an estimated 15.8 million adult Filipinos, or 22.6 percent, have bank accounts, while an approximate 52.8 million, or 77.4 percent, remain unbanked. Ownership of a bank account that can be used to save and receive money, as well as pay bills, is a basic indicator of financial inclusion.

Last year's results were only marginally better than the 22 percent of the population with bank accounts recorded in the 2015 maiden survey.

For those who do not have bank accounts, 60 percent of them cited not having enough money as a reason, while 21 percent did not not cite any reason at all. Meanwhile, 18 percent of the respondents said they do not have documentary requirements to open an account.

Other reasons cited for not having a bank account are: high cost of opening a bank account (10 percent), lack of knowledge on how to open an account (9 percent), joblessness (8 percent) and lack of awareness (8 percent).

As for an approximate breakdown of the 22.6 percent of adults who do own bank accounts, 11.5 percent of them are in the formal banking sector. Around 8.1 percent are in non-government microfinance organizations, 2.9 percent are in cooperatives, and 0.3 percent are in non-stock savings and loan associations.

Only 1.3 percent of adults have electronic (e-money) accounts. The survey took into account how one person may have several accounts on different platforms.

On the other hand, the top cause cited for having bank accounts is to save in case of an emergency (42 percent), followed by saving for an education (31 percent) and for business (29 percent). Other uses are for safekeeping (23 percent) and as a form of investment (12 percent).

Only 18 percent of the banked population use their accounts to receive salary, 12 percent for sending and receiving money, and 6 percent for receiving their pension.

The survey also found that women are twice as likely than men to own an account, particularly in non-government microfinance organizations and cooperatives.

"Whereas most developing countries face the persistent challenge of women's financial exclusion, the Philippines presents an interesting case wherein the level of financial inclusion is significantly higher among women than men," the BSP said.

Moving forward, the BSP plans to push through with more digital finance programs to reach out to the unbanked population.

"While formal account penetration remains low and growth is modest, there are opportunities for greater financial inclusion enabled by digital technology," the BSP said, citing how accounts are underutilized for remittance and payment transactions.

According to the survey, 70 percent of Filipinos cite convenience as a key factor in choosing a channel for remittance transactions. Other factors considered are cheaper charges, physical access points, and faster services.

However, 46 percent of account holders who have access to the internet are wary of e-payment platforms due to issues such as hacking and data security.

"The BSP therefore aims to develop a digital finance ecosystem that supports the diverse needs of all users in a manner that is secure, sustainable, convenient, and affordable," the BSP said.

The BSP will continue the implementation of its National Retail Payment System, which set policies, standards and governance principles in digital retail payment operations and structures.