UNO Digital Bank, Proxtera team up to provide financial literacy to MSMEs

UNO Digital Bank and Singapore-based Proxtera will train 10,000 MSMEs in the Philippines on financial literacy as part of the SME Financial Empowerment Program (SFE), integrating them into the banking system and empowering them to scale and grow. 

This is a step toward educating millions of unbanked Filipinos that traditional financial institutions find hard to reach. According to the 2021 Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Financial Inclusion Survey, 45% of respondents do not have the minimum financial requirements to open an account, 40% lack the right documents, and 22% lack knowledge about the process.

In photo: Manish Bhai, founder, president and CEO, UNO Digital Bank and Saurav Bhattacharyya, CEO, Proxtera

“When you piece all this together, the financial literacy penetration is very low because people haven’t really understood what it means to integrate into organized banking or have a relationship with financial institutions,” said Manish Bhai, CEO of UNO Digital Bank. “We want to promote financial literacy as an entry point to the formal financial sector.” 

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The SFE Program courses are heavily subsidized to ensure they are accessible to MSMEs. Users who complete the course will receive a digitally verifiable certificate. Users will also gain access to a resource hub with financial services tools and knowledge services. 

“What Proxtera has done is developed these modules which are effective, fun, and engaging. With this partnership, we want to make sure that these modules reach the critical mass,” explained Bhai.

“SFE provides financial literacy credentials which is the first step in providing an important indicator of intent to pay,” said Saurav Bhattacharyya, CEO of Proxtera. “We are very excited to have this partnership with UNO Digital Bank in the Philippines which supports the core purpose of Proxtera: to serve MSMEs through financial inclusion.” 

After the MSME owners complete their training, UNO Digital Bank will further support their financial journeys by giving them access to a digital bank account and loan facilities.

“We need to prove that unbanked MSMEs without a digital identity can be given a digital identity and also a financial footprint through education,” said Amor Maclang, convenor of Digital Pilipinas.

Nationwide growth and stability 

In 2022, the UNO Digital Bank team held a brainstorming session to plan how to use education in promoting financial literacy.  They were thinking of producing their own training modules and doing the actual mentorship to the MSMEs themselves. However, seeing Proxtera’s SFE courses during the program’s launch in Africa and Asia made UNO decide to establish a partnership with them instead, cementing it during the recent Philippine FinTech Festival (PFF).  

The PFF highlighted ASEAN as a global powerhouse for innovators with the participation of 200 international government and industry leaders. It was convened by Digital Pilipinas, the largest private sector-led movement championing technological adoption in the country, in partnership with Elevandi, which was founded by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to foster public-private-sector dialogue for fintech advancement.   

Bhai said the Proxtera partnership “will definitely help the business owners out there to make use of multiple financial products which will enable them to grow their business, and be profitable and self-sustaining.” 

“Our whole purpose as a company is to help MSMEs in financial inclusion — which is where UNO Digital Bank is starting and targeting their customer base as well,” said Bhattacharyya.

Bhattacharyya further explained the importance of supporting MSMEs, especially when it comes to banking services and financial literacy: 

“MSMEs contribute to a large percentage of the employment of many countries,” he said. “The moment they grow, their ability to pay their own employees grows. Everybody benefits because the fabric of society, which is a large percentage of the population employed by MSMEs, also does better economically. And that brings better overall economic stability to the country.” 

“MSMEs are the lifeline of the economy, and funding and proper money management are the lifeline of the business,” said Amit Malhotra, Chief Business Officer of UNO Digital Bank. “The MSMEs have a need for credit rating, financial investment, and other financial services. And we, as a digital bank, feel like providing that is our moral responsibility to them.”

Moving forward

UNO Digital Bank and Proxtera are preparing for the SFE’s next phase as the MSMEs graduate. 

“What’s the usual concern of MSMEs? Additional capital and learning how to manage and grow capital,” said Guia Donido, Chief of the PTTC Training Division. “These were addressed by the learning modules provided through the website. This is a good program that addresses the concerns of MSMEs from training and financial education to access to financial services.”

(From left): Amit Malhotra, Chief Business Officer, UNO Digital Bank; Guia Dionido, Chief, Training Division, Philippine Trade Training Center; and Amor Maclang, Convenor, Digital Pilipinas discuss how the SFE can provide financial access to MSMEs.

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