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At Large

Reaching out to the ‘unbanked’

By next year, according to Statista, a market information firm, the number of Filipinos using a mobile phone will reach close to 70 percent of the population. On the other hand, the number of bank branches across the country is expected to dwindle dramatically, says Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) president and CEO Cezar P. Consing.

Filipinos of a certain (senior) age may still insist on dealing with an actual human being when it comes to managing their money. But Consing, for one, sees a growing number of denizens increasingly comfortable with online transactions, preferring to save time and enjoy the convenience of banking through their smart phones and the internet.

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This may be the reason BPI is embarking on the next phase of what the bank calls its “digital transformation journey.” This transformation, said Consing in a recent lunch with media, will allow the bank to serve underserved and unbanked Filipinos across the nation. In a statement, Consing said that “digitalization will make financial inclusion truly sustainable,” allowing the bank to “serve a much greater proportion of the population.”

This is certainly necessary. According to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), 77 percent of Filipinos are “unbanked,” with only 15.8 million Filipinos having access to banks while 52.8 million do not, with 60 percent of the “unbanked” saying they don’t have enough money to open a bank account.

Consing thinks otherwise. He is particularly concerned about reaching out to a wider customer base, particularly lower-middle- to lower-income classes. “Small and medium enterprises and lower-income consumer segments are growing at a very fast rate,” noted Consing. “Digitalization will reduce our cost to serve and will therefore permit a higher level of engagement with these segments.”

Before the lunch ended, Consing had one request to make to his guests: “Please use a strong password.” BPI deals daily with hundreds of “attacks,” ranging from petty attempts at phishing to serious incursions into clients’ accounts. Clients, he said, could be more proactive by using a password that thwarts adverse attacks. One of the easiest ways, he said, is to simply “use a blank space” (or an underscore) somewhere in your password that could at least delay thieves searching for a way into your account. The best defense is self-defense.

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Two underrated, under-the-radar films are currently struggling against the behemoths released by Disney and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Though “The Lion King” and “Spider-Man: Far from Home” rule the box office and dominate cinema real estate here, “Yesterday” and “Family History” are, as of this writing, holding their own, though precariously. But moviegoers with a taste for alternative fare might find these two films a welcome respite from live-action recreation and one more iteration of a superhero’s exploits.

“Yesterday” starts off with a tantalizing premise. What if the entire Beatles oeuvre is erased from the world’s memory and only one (and two others) fan-musician remembers the songs? For “milleniors,” the trip back to the Beatles era is welcome nostalgia. But even more welcome is the discovery that even younger audience members still remember the Beatles and enjoy the works of the Fab Four.

Many have criticized the rather shallow premises and insipid love story thought up by director-writer Danny Boyle. But if only for bringing back Lennon-McCartney and giving a younger generation a taste of the universal appeal of their songs, the movie deserves the fond respect of fans. And if only for bringing back “John Lennon” and what might have been, it deserves even more heartfelt praise.

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I didn’t know what to expect from “Family History,” written, directed and starred in by comic Michael V. But I wasn’t prepared for the depth of the story — despite the comic highlights and twists and turns of fate.

“Family History” is at heart the struggle of a couple to come to terms with each other’s failings and faults. But it is in the end a “full-circle” tale of acceptance and forgiveness, something unexpected in a production created by a team of gag writers. One never knows the depth of artistry within even the funniest of funnymen.

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TAGS: At Large, Banking, banks, BPI, Cezar P. Consing, digital transformation journey, Family History, online transactions, Rina Jimenez-David, yesterday
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