UNO Digital Bank and Proxtera's Financial Literacy and Inclusion Program to Benefit 10,000 MSMEs

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UNO Digital Bank and Proxtera's Financial Literacy and Inclusion Program to Benefit 10,000 MSMEs

As part of the SME Financial Empowerment Program (SFE), 10,000 Filipino MSMEs will receive financial literacy training from UNO Digital Bank and Singapore-based Proxtera, allowing them to be integrated into the banking system and scale and grow. This is an essential step toward reaching the millions of unbanked Filipinos who are difficult for traditional financial institutions to reach. According to the 2021 Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Financial Inclusion Survey, 22% of respondents lacked process knowledge, 40% lacked the required documents, and 45% lacked the minimum amount of money to open an account.

UNO Digital Bank and Proxtera's Financial Literacy and Inclusion Program to Benefit 10,000 MSMEs
UNO Digital Bank’s partnership with Proxtera and its SME Financial Empowerment Program will train 10,000 MSMEs in digital financial literacy. (Left-Right) Manish Bhai, Founder, President & 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,” Manish Bhai, CEO of UNO Digital Bank, described the challenge. “We want to promote financial literacy as an entry point to the formal financial sector.”

“SFE provides financial literacy credentials which is the first step in providing an important indicator of intent to pay,” affirmed Saurav Bhattacharyya, the 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.”

Amor Maclang, Convenor of Digital Pilipinas, spoke of the project’s utmost importance: “We need to prove that unbanked MSMEs without a digital identity can be given a digital identity and also a financial footprint through education.”

The SFE Program courses are heavily subsidized to ensure that MSMEs can enroll. Users who complete the course will receive a digitally verifiable certificate. Users will also have access to a resource hub that includes financial services tools and knowledge services. Proxtera created these useful, entertaining, and engaging modules. Through this collaboration, we hope to ensure that these modules reach critical mass.

After they have completed their training, UNO Digital Bank will continue to assist MSME owners' financial journeys by providing them with access to a digital bank account and loan facilities.

National growth and stability

In 2022, the UNO Digital Bank team brainstormed ways to use education to advance financial literacy. They considered developing their own training materials and directly mentoring MSMEs. Instead, after seeing Proxtera's SFE courses when the program was introduced in Africa and Asia, UNO decided to form a partnership with them. This collaboration was formalized at the recent Philippine FinTech Festival (PFF).

The PFF, which drew 200 international government and business leaders, emphasized ASEAN as a global powerhouse for innovators. Elevandi, a company established by Singapore's Monetary Authority (MAS) to promote public-private sector dialogue for FinTech advancement, and Digital Pilipinas, the country's largest private sector-led movement championing technological adoption, co-organized the event.

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.”

Bhattacharyya agreed, saying, “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,”

Bhattacharyya emphasized the importance of assisting MSMEs, particularly in terms of banking services and financial literacy: MSMEs account for a sizable portion of employment in many countries. As they grow, so does their ability to pay their own employees. Everyone benefits because the social fabric—which employs a sizable portion of the workforce—performs better economically. As a result, the country's overall economic stability improves.

“MSMEs are the lifeline of the economy, and funding and proper money management are the lifeline of the business. 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,” said Amit Malhotra, Chief Business Officer of UNO Digital Bank.

Moving Ahead

As the MSMEs graduate, UNO Digital Bank and Proxtera are getting ready for the next stage of the SFE.

Guia Donido, Chief of the PTTC Training Division, says they will continue to enroll MSMEs whose main problems are access to finance. “What’s the usual concern of MSMEs?,” she elaborated. “Additional capital and learning how to manage and grow capital. 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 finance services.”

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