Interview: Mikko Perez (Ayannah)


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To the uninitiated, ‘fintech’ in the Philippines would seem like a new concept. Defined as an ‘industry that uses technology and innovation’ that ‘competes with traditional methods in the delivery of financial services’, such a concept would indeed be a new thing for a third world country. On the contrary, Ayannah’s founder and CEO Mikko Perez, in as early as 2008, built a digital technology around the country’s major contributor to its GDP: remittances. Through what is now Sendah and Sendah Direct, Ayannah was able to provide overseas workers an alternative way of sending cash, goods and services back to their loved ones at home in a more secure and affordable way.

Focused on providing innovative financial solutions that will provide access to financial services to anyone, anytime, anywhere, including the 10 million overseas Filipino workers across the globe, Ayannah is poised to offer additional services such as Sendah Remit and Kaya Credit.

In a recent correspondence, Mikko writes down his thoughts and insights on Ayannah and the current status of financial technology in the country as a whole:

How would you introduce yourself and Ayannah?

Mikko Perez is Founder & CEO of Ayannah, an award-winning fintech start up that provides affordable and accessible digital financial services to the next billion people in the world’s emerging middle class.  Prior to becoming an “overaged internet entrepreneur”, Mikko had stints as a private equity investment manager and investment banker. Having began his career as a community organizer in rural Philippines, Mikko is passionate about combining finance and technology to build better communities.

How is the Fintech environment in Asia now compared to 2 years ago?

Huge changes – in the span of 18-24 months, the fintech community transformed from a fringe vertical of payment nerds to one of the biggest verticals in the digital economy.  We are solving big problems across the region and we can potentially impact the lives of hundreds of millions of people by giving them access to affordable and accessible digital financial services to improve their lives.

What do you think are the opportunities and challenges ahead for Fintech in the Philippines?

Opportunity: A growing middle class, estimate to be around 48 million adults who are getting out of poverty and starting to earn, consume and hopefully, save for the future.  The Ph has a large (100M) and young (median age is 23.5 yo) population.

Challenges: The Ph is still a cash economy – 99% of transactions are in cash.  Most people are financially excluded from affordable and accessible financial services (remittance, loans, insurance, investments) that can improve their lives.

What is your advice for banks and financial institutions to integrate Fintech?

Look at fintech start ups as partners and not as competitors and challengers.  We provide new channels to reach new customers with new products.

Who do you think are the forerunners in Fintech among local firms?

Well, of course, Ayannah is one of the forerunners.  The others include PayMaya, GCash (now Mynt), Lendr, Lenddo, Coins, Satoshi Citadel, Accudeen and First Circle.  Its a growing community!

What are your plans for this year and the next year?

Continue to grow our remittance and credit scoring/Lending-as-a-Service business in the Philippines. Expand to Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia

How would you describe Ayannah in one sentence?

We enable affordable and accessible digital financial services to the next two billion people in the world’s emerging middle class.