Albert has several years experience in the fields of fintech, banking, telecommunications, and logistics. He started his career in logistics having worked for American President Lines and Federal Express. He broadened his knowledge and experience by then moving into telecommunications with two major Philippine telco players, Globe Telecom and Smart Communications. While in Globe, Albert earned Globe’s Leadership Award for significant gains made in growing and expanding broadband services nationwide. He transitioned from telco to fintech after being chosen to lead GCash as President and CEO. During this period, Albert became the founding president of the Philippine E-Money Association. Immediately prior to joining GoTyme, he was SVP, Digital Payments and Agency Banking for Robinsons Bank. He is also a certified coach from the International Coaching Federation.
1. Tell us a bit about your journey in the world of FinTech. How did you become who you are today?
Steve Jobs said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backward. So, you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”
Fintech was not foremost in my mind. In fact, my background prior to fintech is spread over 23 years in telco, air and ocean cargo transportation, and logistics, specifically in Sales and Operations. The experience I gained from there gave me the confidence to take on fintech when I was appointed CEO of a local EMI (Electronic Money Issuer) or e-wallet provider. I relied on the execution expertise, rigor, discipline, and people management experience I learned across different fields and applied those to that initial foray into fintech. I took advantage of using a fresh point of view not commonly seen in the financial industry space at that time. From there, I quickly embraced the advocacy of financial inclusion, which became my north star for using fintech to help my fellow Flipinos.
2. As the CEO of GoTyme, what motivated you to become an entrepreneur?
Let me first say that GoTyme is unique in the sense that we operate with two CEOs, or rather, co-CEOs. I am one half of that equation, the other being Nate Clarke.
Further, I would not say that I am an entrepreneur in the truest sense of the word, as my career was built on several multi-national and local organizations. These organizations served as my learning grounds for general management and springboards for execution innovation. When I entered the fintech space, my motivation was built on a strong desire to build something from the ground up, something that I could call my “own”, something that could contribute to a bigger good. I also felt that by pivoting into start-ups, it would be easier to introduce disruptive products and processes. I had no solid plan to become an “entrepreneur”, but more of a drive to change the “regular way” of doing things.
3. How has the performance been of GoTyme in recent years?
GoTyme received its digital banking license from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas in August 2021 and commercially launched last October 2022. At the time of this writing, we have only been in operation for three months. In that short span of time, we have successfully introduced a new means of account origination, leveraged a retail chain for deposits and withdrawals and incorporated three times the points value whenever a GoTyme account holder uses his GoTyme card to pay.
To standardize account origination, we deployed digital onboarding kiosks in Robinsons Supermarket, where grocery shoppers could easily open an account by completing a digital on-boarding process assisted by a bank ambassador and retrieve their debit card in 5 minutes.
That same individual could then proceed to deposit funds into his account (or withdraw funds) by cashing in through the supermarket till points aided by cashiers. Once funded, he could then purchase items within the Robinsons Retail chain and earn 3x the points on his GoRewards membership integrated into his GoTyme account. He could use the same points to purchase more items or redeem those points into cash.
4. What is your personal vision for the company?
I look forward to the day when Filipinos have adopted and incorporated our products and services into their daily lives such that GoTyme is no longer a noun but instead a verb. When sending money growing investments, lending, and other financial services is about “Go-Tyme-ing” it.
5. Please share a milestone that changed your professional life for the better.
Early on in my career, I turned my back on a high-paying job because I was being pressured to compromise my principles. My three children were still very young then and foremost in mind was how to sustain my family. For almost a year, I kept swallowing the humble pill, doing small, odd jobs but never giving up on finding a job more closely related to my field. That experience taught me the importance of family support and the strength of prayer. I quickly learned the values of humility and grit. The two values which I hold most dear and are among 2 of the 5 values we espouse in GoTyme.
6. Do you think that cash will soon be obsolete? Is digital currency the future?
Personally, I don’t think cash will ever be obsolete. Use of it will decline, as was the case during the pandemic. However, as the lockdown lifts and restrictions are eased, cash transactions, especially with the unbanked and underbanked, are also coming back. That said, digital accounts opened during the pandemic will stay as an alternative to cash. Digital currency will be a choice and how it thrives will depend on ubiquity of acceptance and ease of use.
7. Many today continue to lack access to FinTech services. How can we better the situation?
Let me focus on the Philippines. To hasten access, I believe we need to; (1) expedite the distribution of the National ID card, and (2) align policies across pertinent government agencies to make it simpler for SMEs to do business. The first one addresses the need for genuine verifiable identification for everyone to open financial accounts. It also becomes a means to ensure that accounts are secure and safe.
The second one contributes to quickly expanding an ecosystem of merchants that can accept digital payments for small base of the pyramid transactions. By doing so, customers are not only educated through simplified use but also open themselves to other digital financial services. Which in turn, perpetuates the digital transaction cycle.
8. What are some of the challenges we face in FinTech today? Do you see a solution in the future?
TRADITIONAL REGULATION – since FinTechs keep pushing boundaries, regulation inevitably gets left behind and needs some time to catch up. The onus then falls on fintechs to carefully understand existing regulation and the spirit behind it. It is important to carefully determine how those regulations are best applied to new products and services and to new modes of distribution such that existing laws on financial services, data protection and data privacy are not compromised.
CYBERSECURITY and DATA PROTECTION – there is no question that cyber criminals will target fintechs to gain access to customers’ sensitive information, as such, staying ahead of the curve is a must. While technology may be deployed to combat these threats, we cannot underestimate the criticality of open cooperation and collaboration between fintech players, traditional financial services providers, and regulators.
PRODUCT OR SERVICE DIFFERENTIATION – the temptation to differentiate on price is strong, however, it’s not sustainable and loyalty to the product is low. Stickiness comes from solving a pain point by leveraging new technologies. Customers are also wary of digital per se and look to human intervention and connection.
ATTRACTING AND RETAINING THE RIGHT TALENT – while financial rewards, benefits and perks are huge drivers of attracting talent, building an employee-centric and purpose-driven culture are strong reasons to stay.
9. Tell us about your college life. How did you realize your interest in Fintech?
Fintech wasn’t a “thing” back when I was in university. I started off with delusions of grandeur as a Chemical Engineer and eventually finished with a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Administration. At that time, no part of me even considered a career in Finance. As I look back, I realize the dots connect and make sense, since my logical analytics and problem-solving skills come from time spent in the College of Engineering, while my people and service orientation are a result of my shift into Hotel and Restaurant Administration. That early though, I got into a mindset of looking for new ways of doing things and using technology to enable that. I recall building simple coded engine cut-off devices just because I found those in the market too expensive and too complicated for the car I was driving then.
10. What advice would you give entrepreneurs in FinTech today?
I guess the first would be to keep the customer always in mind. Create a customer journey that’s simple, smooth, and easy.
Second, be conscious of the trade-off between building and buying technology. Study carefully and know when to do which.
Third, understand the compliance regulations for your product or service. Financial services are highly regulated, and it is a must to know all regulatory obligations.
Fourth, go with a financial model that is right for your business. Understand your unit economics. Consult with experts or those who have experience in the same line of business.