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DoF looks to tap Alibaba Group’s digital financial services for OFB

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Carlos G. Dominguez
Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III — PCOO

THE Department of Finance (DoF) is eyeing to tap digital financial services offered by China’s Alibaba Group for remittances processed by the newly opened Overseas Filipino Bank (OFB). 

In a statement, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said they are looking to tap financial technology (fintech) solutions offered by Ant Financial, a unit of Chinese billionaire Jack Ma’s empire.

Mr. Dominguez led a team of DoF officials in paying a visit to Mr. Ma’s Alibaba Business School last week in Hangzhou, China, where they attended at three-day workshop on the New Economy.

The Cabinet official said Ant Financial’s low-cost mobile payment technology — which helped boost financial inclusion in China — could also be used in the Philippines for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). In particular, the fintech-enabled service is eyed to reduce the costs of worker remittances. 

“There are over 10 million Filipinos working abroad, Ant Financial’s technology is helpful for them. The technology can help them manage their cash, their earnings wisely,” Mr. Dominguez was quoted as saying.

The DoF is looking at the OFB launched last month as the “launching pad” for this digital service, which will likewise allow more migrant workers to test the platform.

The government remodelled the Philippine Postal Savings Bank to a new entity that will primarily service OFWs, in fulfilment of a campaign promise made by President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

The new bank — which is run by the Land Bank of the Philippines — will be offering 15 banking products and services, including peso savings, time deposits, and checking accounts, loan products, investment products such as Unit Investment Trust Funds, payment services, and remittance services.

The OFB is targeting to open representative offices in Dubai at the United Arab Emirates and in Bahrain, where a big number of Filipinos are based.   

Eric Jing, chief executive officer of Ant Financial, has vowed to support the DoF’s plans to go digital. He said that their company’s fintech products have extended formal financial services to 40 million small and medium-sized companies in China. Other digital solutions offered by the Alibaba unit include payment services via QR codes on smartphones for a local subway system and in the Wufangzhai, an unmanned restaurant. — Melissa Luz T. Lopez