Kickstarting Fintech for Impact
ING and UNICEF host Application Bootcamp to support startups developing fintech solutions in the Philippines
“Poverty is multi-dimensional — it’s not just a lack of money; it’s a lack of access to basic social services."
UNICEF and longtime partner ING recently held an application bootcamp at the Asian Institute of Management - Dado Banatao Incubator in Makati City, Philippines. Around 30 startups either building open-source fintech solutions or developing fintech elements into their impact solutions engaged with experts in a variety of learning sessions.
The event is part of the partners’ Fintech for Impact programme launched last month, at the end of which the partners will identify and make equity-free investments of up to $100k in up to 6 startups building innovative tools that will serve the financially excluded and hardest-to-reach communities in the Philippines.
ING and UNICEF Innovation are particularly interested in companies that use fintech in new, groundbreaking ways that are scalable and globally applicable. In addition to funding, the startups will also enter and benefit from a yearlong incubation period with business and technical experts toward developing and deploying their solutions and monitoring its social impact.
In the Philippines, over 10 million children live below the poverty line. As a result, they have an increased chance of poor health and malnutrition; and without their and their family’s ability to afford and access education, training, work, and entrepreneurial opportunities — they also experience reduced opportunities in the long term.
Pia Bernadette Roman Tayag, Managing Director of the Center for Learning and Financial Inclusion Advocacy at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), expressed support for the Fintech for Impact programme. “The BSP has been working relentlessly to promote financial inclusion in the country, so all Filipinos will have access to financial services that respond to and fit their everyday needs and capacity.”
“Without access to financial services, the youth will not be able to get welfare-enhancing services. We need fintechs who will make financial services not just accessible, but compelling to the unbanked sector."
“Fintech partnerships are key as we can’t do it alone; we need the agility and entrepreneurship from startups while ING can bring the expertise and global footprint,” enthused Hans B. Sicat, ING Philippines’ Country Manager, who also noted that the benefits of financial growth in the Philippines are not shared equally, so new tools must be developed to help in bridging service and financial gaps.
Through UNICEF Innovation’s experience in investing in and working closely with startups over the past 4 years, it has found these solutions clustered around technology spaces such as blockchain, machine learning, data science, artificial intelligence, software, and more. UNICEF’s global and contextual footprint has been critical in convening the private sector with technology startups in crafting user-centered solutions, bringing technology and skills where they are most needed.
The yearlong incubation period notably involves mentorship on open source business strategy. Stephanie Sy, CEO and Lead Data Scientist of Thinking Machines, is an UNICEF Innovation Fund graduate and has successfully and scalably incorporated an open source model into the solution. “We get access to subject matter expertise and access to a community, which we never would have otherwise,” she shared.
“Working towards financial inclusion means leveraging on partnerships and optimizing new technologies that will allow Filipinos, regardless of income, to achieve their financial goals. The ING-UNICEF Fintech for Impact programme will truly help us move closer to that goal,” said Roman Tayag.