Sari-sari stores reinvented: ‘Tingi’ machines turn into ATMs
The country’s largest lender BDO Unibank has expanded its footprint by over six times its existing branch network by harnessing over 8,000 sari-sari (mom and pop) stores, hardware stores, water refilling stations and other small businesses to function as its cash withdrawal and remittance partners.
Riding on the game-changing 2017 Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas framework, which enabled banks to tap nonbank entities with sufficient cash flow as their agents, BDO launched on Friday its “Cash Agad” program. The framework deputizes sari-sari stores and small business owners in remote locations to disburse up to P10,000 cash per day to automated teller machine (ATM) debit or prepaid cardholders of all Philippine-based bank and nonbank financial institutions.
By partnering with local businesses already trusted by the community, BDO turns them into an agent or proxy for ATMs and bank branches. The shop owner receives a point-of-sale terminal for use in transacting locally-issued ATM cards and facilitates basic transactions like ATM cash withdrawals, receiving remittances from overseas family members and making balance inquiries.
While the program has debuted only with cash-disbursing functions so far, BDO intended to enable these agents to accept deposit or bills payments in the future, possibly by the first quarter of 2021, BDO head of agency banking Jaime Nasol said in a press briefing on Friday.
By increasing the functions of these agents, Nasol said they could likewise become BDO’s grassroots partners in promoting savings and financial literacy.
“If the country’s economy is ever going to bounce back from the pandemic, it will take all of us—big businesses, micro, small and medium enterprises and both urban and rural communities and their local governments—to help each other and do our part. There’s a certain inspiration, a beautiful sort of hope when you see communities working together to rise up and recover from a crisis. BDO is doing its part in helping communities recover economically through the Cash Agad network,” Nasol said.
He said the rollout of cash-disbursing functions was done first to cater to the immediate need of the communities, especially given the lockdown protocols prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The partner-agents also benefit by getting a share of the transaction fees. Fees are set between P15 and P30 per cash withdrawal if within a city and between P30 and P50 if outside a city.
Nasol said the share of the partner agent would range between 50 and 60 percent of total fees depending on location. In far-flung areas, the agent will get a bigger share.
Ideally, the agents should be operating in areas without access to banks or ATMs.
In an archipelagic country like the Philippines, there are communities situated in distant islands where motorized boats are the only means of transportation. Some towns and barrios are located in mountainous or hilly areas with rocky and uneven terrain.
In the case of BDO, which has 1,400 operating branches to date, including those of its rural bank unit, BDO Network Bank, mobilizing an agency network allows it to rapidly increase its geographic reach without forking out the large capital outlay needed to build physical branches.
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