Branchless banking

Banking in the Philippines has always been perennially a time-consuming yet somehow an interesting activity for me. This is due to the fact that there are certain limitations in the local banking system that one would not know until he is finally in the counter after spending a good amount of time queueing. I remember last year when I was paying for my son’s examination fee and the university only has an account in Metrobank and it required an actual over the counter deposit. The teller could not accept my payment because they have reached the limit of 999 deposit slips per day. Creating an account also requires the person to be physically present in the bank and submit certain documents for verification.

Doing online transfers between different banks provide a very limited experience. Not all banks allow that and mostly can only accommodate transferring to other accounts of the same bank. Even if one bank does allow third party transfers, it is only limited to a certain amount per day.

In Singapore, having a token device to generate the one time use PIN for all online banking transactions allows you to do several things in real time, wherever you are. You can change your transaction limits, transfer to overseas accounts, pay all your utility bills and other merchants. I finish all my transactions in 30 minutes and carry on with my life. This experience has not been replicated at all in the Philippines.

Enter CIMB from Malaysia. This bank actually allows you to create an online in five minutes, the same amount of time you would spend listening to a complete song, more or less. I tried this service and was able to create an account and post email validation. The bank even loaded the account with P50 as a welcome gift. A few days later, the debit card was delivered at home. Once activated, I can actually transfer to any bank in the Philippines, with no service fee, something the local bank charges for. It also allows me to deposit cash to the account through any 7-11 stores nationwide. This experience was so good because I didn’t even have to go to any branch, and I am not at the mercy of the queue in the physical branch, which obviously would eat a lot of my time.

As a consumer who prefers to do banking transactions online, I call on our local banks to continuously improve and transform the banking service available. We now have a foreign bank that seems to address this gap which should be viewed as an opportunity for local banks to assess its digital capabilities.

Kay Calpo Lugtu is the COO of Hungry Workhorse, a digital and culture transformation firm; Co-Founder of Caucus, Inc. and Deputy Director of Global Chamber Manila. Her advocacies include data privacy, financial literacy, and nation-building. The author may be reached at or, to the more cautious now, at