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Microentrepreneurs urged to take stock of their financial situation, reboot amid COVID-19
By: - Reporter / @neltayao
/ 04:02 AM July 13, 2020

Rodolfo Mabiasen Jr., BanKo head of financial inclusion and microfinance loans

Explore your digital options, manage finances strictly, and, above all, prioritize your health.

These are the top three tips of BPI Direct BanKo, the microfinance arm of the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), to self-employed microentrepreneurs (SEMEs) who are slowly restarting their businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which they shared at a recent session of the “Go Negosyo Mentor Me Online” series, broadcast live regularly on Facebook.“One of the most basic things you can do is to set aside your business finances from your personal finances,” said Anne delos Reyes, BanKo head of customer and product management. “I’m sure [our SEMEs] are all familiar with the saying in business, ‘Pay yourself first.’ So whatever you earn, make sure you save enough for yourself—then reinvest the rest.”

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The habit of saving is one that should be imbibed by Filipinos, especially in times like these, said webinar moderator Bong Magpayo, a Go Negosyo mentor. “We shouldn’t be just one-day millionaires,” he said. “Sometimes, some people spend P11,000—after just earning P10,000.”

Budget management is one of the key things BanKo teaches SEMEs, added Rodolfo Mabiasen Jr., BanKo head of financial inclusion and microfinance loans. Before the pandemic, he said BanKo would go around marketplaces, educating vendors about financial basics, in order to improve their financial literacy.“We feel that because of the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, knowing how to manage your budget has become even more important for our clients. They should revisit their financial plans—will their sales levels still be the same after COVID-19? This way, they can also reassess their expenses, and lower these if need be,” Mabiasen said.According to BanKo, when the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) was implemented in March, over 60 percent of their clients had to temporarily stop operations. As mandated by government, BanKo deferred payments of existing borrowers. They are also offering a loan extension program, Mabiasen said, recognizing the fact that even businesses that have reopened are still grappling with their finances.

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For those needing help with their capital or the replenishment of their inventory, Mabiasen said they were offering a “rehab fund,” which would effectively increase their existing loans, so these SEMEs would have the necessary cash to reboot their enterprises. And as an incentive for those who can meet their loan payment due dates, Mabiasen added that BanKo had a program in place to give these clients a discount.

Anne delos Reyes, BanKo head of customer and product management

Mabiasen emphasized, however, that with lockdown measures eased and SEMEs raring to restart their businesses, the need for these entrepreneurs to “take care of themselves and stay healthy” should still be their top priority, “so they can continue to run their businesses actively.”

One way to do this, he said, is to take advantage of digital tools at their disposal—and to use their creativity and resources to regain the losses they incurred during the ECQ. On the part of BanKo, the company has launched a mobile app that allows clients to easily monitor their NegosyoKo loans, send payments, and check their balance and transaction history safely at home. Account holders may also buy prepaid mobile load, transfer money and pay bills.

But for those who are still more comfortable with over-the-counter transactions, BanKo says their 300 branches nationwide are open and available, as well as its several cash agents, which include GRJ Jaro, Raquel Pawnshop, Santolan and Tambunting, where clients may deposit and withdraw from their PondoKo accounts and pay for NegosyoKo loans.

“Our clients need our support and guidance especially during these trying times. We understand their situation, and as their partner, we are here to help them survive and start over for their families,” Mabiasen said. INQ

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