GCash is the Philippines’ top finance app and its VP of Crypto, Insuretech and Datatech, Neil Trinidad, speaks to WARC Asia Editor Rica Facundo about how it has become the super wallet it is today.

This article is part of a Spotlight series on e-wallet marketing in Southeast Asia. Read more

Key insights

  • To be accessible, GCash has to be where consumers are, like a mom-and-pop store, public market or tricycle driver association.
  • Payment data can let brands target over 50 types of audiences on GCash, but four examples would be online shoppers, foodies, K-pop fans and sharp investors.
  • GCash sees potential in Web3, crypto, NFTs and play-to-earn in the Filipino market, and aims to develop a crypto product that makes the experience less complex.
Briefly tell us about GCash. What is the brand’s mission?

GCash is the number one finance app in the Philippines. We have 60 million users who use GCash, which represents 83% of the Philippine adult population, so it’s on a huge scale. Our mission is to democratise financial services and enable finance for all.

Why has it taken off in the Philippines?

If you look at the Philippines, it is a story of huge potential – 63% of Filipinos remain unbanked. But what we’re seeing now is that GCash has become part of everyone’s daily lives. Our daily logins are 29 million, daily transactions are at around 19 million. And in terms of usage, GCash has already reached around 500 billion pesos in monthly gross transaction value.

So we’re really talking now about an app that has driven considerable scale with Filipino consumers using it for many different finance use cases beyond payments and now into savings, insurance, investments, even e-commerce and more.

What are some of the current cultural barriers preventing Filipinos from gaining access to financial services?

Many of these users may have never set foot in a bank before. This can be caused by several reasons such as:

  • The bank is inaccessible from where they live because it’s so far away; they would have to commute many times.
  • Banks can seem intimidating for many Filipinos who don’t have the financial means.
  • Filipinos don’t have enough money to open a bank account.
Given these barriers, how has GCash been able to grow penetration? What are some of the key channels that have enabled the brand to drive more financial inclusivity?

In order to be accessible, it’s important to be where the consumers are. In the Philippines, these include key channels and partners such as:

  • Sari sari (mom and pop) stores – These are the centre of the community or barangay. This is how GCash started GCashPo (which stands for pera or money outlet). Imagine this as like an outlet or sari sari store where consumers can go to either cash in, cash out or pay bills using GCash.
  • Palenge or public market – Now users can buy chicken or fish using GCash by scanning the QR code at the vendor stand.
  • Tricycle driver association or Toda – Traditionally, a lot of our users pay using GCash on delivery.
Now let’s talk about driving financial inclusivity but from a product point of view. How has GCash innovated its product to address the unbanked and become the super wallet it is today?

GLife: In order to enable users, we needed to onboard more merchants and more partners through GLife. It’s a marketplace that exists within GCash, where many different types of brands and services can onboard across different industries, whether it’s in shopping, e-commerce, insurance or even e-government.

GSave: Secondly, the platform has expanded to become an entry point for more financial services, beyond payments which is where we started. To serve the unbanked in the Philippines, we have GSave as a savings service where we partnered with banks such as CIMB and BPI to enable Filipinos to open their very first savings account.

GInvest: Statistics show that only 10% of Filipinos have investments. With GInvest, we partnered Atram to offer several funds that Filipinos can invest in, whether it’s in the Philippines or globally. Now we have three million registered users, which account for over 77% of all new ITF accounts in the Philippines.

GCredit: This is a lending product which has disbursed over 29 billion pesos worth of credit since it was launched in 2018. Because many Filipinos don’t have access to formal lending, many of them end up having to resort to “five six” or loan sharks. So GCredit has now enabled consumers to be able to apply for credit without needing to have a credit card.

GLoan: This is our product which offers quick cash loans. And it has affordable and fair rates. So far, we’ve disbursed over 2.2 billion in just 10 months since launch.

GCash has so many different types of products. What is the implication on the type of e-wallet consumer in the Philippines that marketers need to take note of?

The e-wallet consumer in the Philippines is quite diverse. This is because the data GCash is able to collect – across different demographics, use cases, etc – has allowed us to identify over 50 different audience affinities on GCash that our partners can target. But here are four types of audience segments marketers could target on GCash:

  • Online shoppers: If you are a retail brand and you want to target online shoppers, we can identify who they are. These are users who use GCash to shop frequently on Shopee, Lazada and other stores.
  • Foodies: Online food delivery became a huge industry during the pandemic. We know who transacts and who tops up with food delivery apps using GCash.
  • K-pop fans: We know who uses GCash for K-related products or subscriptions.
  • Sharp investors: We know who are regularly investing in GInvest funds or who are using more advanced financial services.
How does access to payment data make a difference in how marketers can understand and convert their audience?

There are currently many types of digital media platforms out there that can help you reach or target your audiences. But they don’t necessarily convert to purchase because it may not be a direct link.

As more marketers are now focused on performance and really measuring the impact of their investment, there’s more focus on how you actually drive consideration to purchase. How do you drive that conversion?

What is unique about GCash is that many Filipinos are using GCash to pay every day. So it’s a consumer, who if you target them at the right moment, with the right voucher, you can really drive that purchase and measure it. It becomes an efficient media investment in that case. E-wallets allow brands to be present when their consumers are at the lowest part of the funnel and ready to make a purchase.

Can you share an example of a GCash campaign that has successfully used payments as a way to connect with the Filipino consumer?

Let’s talk about Christmas because what is more “Pinoy” than “pamasko”. At Christmas, it’s common in the Philippines for nieces or nephews to ask for pamasko, which are often cash handouts. 

But imagine that during the pandemic, Filipinos didn’t have family reunions. So one thing the team did was to use the insight of how do you enable pamasko or Christmas gift giving during the pandemic when people cannot be physically with each other?

We digitised this by running a campaign called “Merry GCash”, which included sending money or pamasko via GCash to your loved ones and friends on our platform. It also allowed users to send these with a Christmas-themed art card and dedication.

Looking to the future, do you think crypto is the next frontier for e-wallets in the Philippines?

Third-party research has showed that around four percent of Filipinos have crypto today and that among respondents, over 50% of them are interested in learning more about crypto and buying and selling crypto.

So imagine a four percent penetration but with high consumer demand and high interest. Even though it’s a bear market today and will persist for a long period, we’re still seeing interest around Web3, crypto, NFTs, play-to-earn growing in the Philippines. But amidst this spurred adoption and interest, the main challenge for crypto moving forward will be three things:

  • Firstly, it’s a very complex and complicated topic. It’s hard to understand if you’re a first timer.
  • Secondly, the buying journey is quite complex as well. It’s multi-step and difficult to do if you’re a first-time user.
  • And lastly, there are questions of trust and security.

Given this climate, GCash is working on developing a crypto product with the aim to make crypto easy.

Whether it’s about crypto or adopting digital payments in the era of e-wallets, there’s still a lot of skepticism and wariness. So how do you assuage consumers so that this kind of market can flourish?

Unfortunately, scams are even more persistent and they affect every sort of industry and vertical, whether it’s banks, finance or e-commerce and even e-wallets.

When it comes to scams, we like to reassure our customers in the following ways:

  • We have developed very advanced risk engines designed to keep our users as safe as possible. They detect fraud early on and learn very quickly and prevent our users from being exposed to scams.
  • It’s also about constant education to consumers about the need to be diligent. We constantly release communications reminding our users not to give away your MPIN or OTP, or share any of your personal information with other users.
  • We ensure close coordination with PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group to apprehend guilty parties.