The Monetary Board of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has approved the establishment of a digital bank by Voyager Innovations (Voyager), through its financial technology arm PayMaya Philippines (PayMaya).

The digital bank, to be named as Maya Bank, will build on PayMaya’s track record of being at the forefront of promoting financial inclusion in the country. With its widely used leading e-wallet, the most extensive on-ground digital remittance network through Smart Padala, and the largest non-bank merchant payments processing business in the Philippines, PayMaya is the only financial technology company that operates an end-to-end FinServ (financial services) ecosystem.

Maya Bank’s primary focus with the digital banking license will be on the predominantly unbanked and underserved population of individuals and micro, small, and medium-sized businesses (MSMEs). It also plans to provide digital financial services to underbanked groups such as youth, women, seniors, and others.

The BSP had previously stated that the number of digital bank licenses would be limited to seven, but six have now been awarded, including Maya Bank’s. Last August 31, the time for new entrants, including converting banks, to submit applications expired.

“The digital transformation of our country is at the top of the PLDT group’s goal, and this development represents a huge step forward for Voyager and PayMaya,” said Manuel V. Pangilinan, Chairman of PLDT, Voyager, and PayMaya. “Through accessible financial services, Maya Bank will be a crucial driver in hastening digital adoption among Filipinos.”, he explained.

Voyager and PayMaya CEO-Founder Orlando B. Vea said: “The Philippines is on the verge of digital change, and PayMaya has been in the forefront of accelerating financial inclusion for both people and businesses in recent years. Because it unlocks options beyond payments, our digital bank license underscores the unique value of our end-to-end financial services ecosystem. We are really humbled by the BSP’s confidence in our digital banking initiative.”

Voyager and PayMaya President Shailesh Baidwan said: “We are really delighted to collaborate with the BSP to accelerate the development and deployment of novel digital banking services, particularly for underserved sectors, in order to leapfrog the Philippine financial ecosystem. We will provide a powerful suite of intuitive, transparent, and easily available digital financial services relevant to Filipinos through Maya Bank and PayMaya, in support of the country’s financial inclusion aspirations.”

PayMaya and the soon-to-be-established Maya Bank will lead Voyager’s digital financial services push, assisting the BSP in meeting its goals of digitizing 50% of total retail payments and reaching 70% of Filipino adults with financial access by 2023.

Voyager secured an additional US$167 million in June 2021 to help PayMaya strengthen its digital payments business and expand into new and inclusive products including credit, insurance, savings, and investments through its soon-to-be-established digital bank. Among Voyager’s shareholders are PLDT Inc. (PLDT) (NYSE: PHI) (PSE: TEL), the Philippines’ largest integrated telecommunications and digital services provider; KKR, a global investment firm; Tencent, a leading technology company in China; and the World Bank’s IFC Asset Management Company (IFC AMC) through its IFC Emerging Asia Fund and IFC Financial Growth Fund.

Maya Bank, as a neo bank, will offer mobile-first digital banking services based on PayMaya’s well-known e-wallet and well-proven technological platforms. PayMaya’s substantial Smart Padala agent network and top merchant payments processing business will be leveraged to service more clients and expand the digital financial ecosystem.

PayMaya, the Philippines’ first open-loop digital payments program, changed the game in 2015 by allowing users to obtain a basic e-wallet account with a virtual Visa or Mastercard in minutes using their mobile phones.

PayMaya has since become ingrained in Filipinos’ daily lives, including sending money and remittances, paying bills, topping up telco load and other digital products, online shopping and face-to-face retail, donations, salary and citizen aid disbursements, transit costs, and so much more.

PayMaya and Smart partnered to offer GigaPay in July of this year, a service that allows Smart users to create and link their PayMaya e-wallet as a payment source for GigaLife purchases.

PayMaya’s massive Smart Padala agent network of 55,000 touchpoints has been transformed into last-mile financial hubs in grassroots communities to target non-digital customers, a substantial gain for a country with little about 28,000 bank branches as of August 2021. Smart Padala is presently in over 92 percent of the country’s cities and municipalities, acting as cash-in, cash-out, bill payment, and remittance facilities for the unbanked and underserved.

As Filipinos flock to digital and cashless technology during the COVID-19 pandemic, this inclusive strategy has fueled enormous growth for the organization. Since the beginning of 2020, PayMaya’s total registered users have increased by more than 2.5X, reaching 40 million by the end of August 2021. In today’s Philippines, one in every two adults has used the PayMaya wallet or transacted through its Smart Padala touchpoints.

PayMaya’s enterprise division provides retailers with cutting-edge payment solutions that take all major credit, debit, and prepaid cards, as well as e-wallets, for both in-person and online transactions. The Philippines’ top e-commerce, culinary, retail, transportation, and utility enterprises, as well as the Philippine government’s national agencies and local government units, use PayMaya’s payment acceptance platforms.

The MSME category, which is one of PayMaya’s priority areas for new services, is driving the increase in enterprise payments. The company released the PayMaya Negosyo app at the start of the community quarantine measures to allow small businesses to get their own digital QR codes and take payments.

PayMaya’s lending arm, PayMaya Lending Corp., began expanding its digital financial services offerings earlier this year with “sachet” loans for MSMEs, beginning with Negosyo Advance and Instacash working capital loans for Smart Padala agents.

PayMaya offers PayMaya Protect for health coverage, starting with COVID-19 and personal accidents, in collaboration with insurance partners. It also offers mobile device protection, with premiums as low as Php1 per day for cracked screens, water damage, and other mishaps.