First Circle, the first digital SME business financing company in Southeast Asia is now the official partner of Lendr, an end-to-end loans origination and loans management platform accessible through multi-channel device such as desktop, tablet or mobile. Lendr is one of the breakthrough products developed by FINTQ, the financial technology unit of Voyager Innovations, the digital innovations arm of PLDT and Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart).
With them as partner, First Circle is able to expand and fulfill its mission in empowering more Philippine SMEs to grow their business. “We are delighted to be partnering with Lendr, who shares our same vision to expand the reach of financial products and provide convenient, hassle-free loan applications to our customers,” Patrick Lynch, First Circle President & CEO explained.
First Circle is amongst the first business loans to be offered in the Lendr marketplace. The Lendr marketplace allows the borrowing market to search and directly apply to an array of financial and non-financial institutions through its integration with lender partners. “First Circle is proud to join the esteemed partners of Lendr as this partnership specifically allows SMEs to be connected to our products and services for their business financing needs,” Lynch expounds.
“Given that Philippine SME sector’s access to finance still remains to be a challenge, providing a digital lending platform to make the customer experience seamless, quick and efficient among our entrepreneurs is one critical step in capacity-building. This provides a huge opportunity to tap greater SME market as First Circle is among the first six banks and non-banks that are currently deployed under the trailblazing Lendr digital lending platform with the other 30 partner financial and non-financial institutions in various stages of on-boarding,” said Lito Villanueva, FINTQ managing director and CEO.
SMEs in the country account for 45 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), which is the second lowest in Southeast Asia next to Myanmar. It employs about 65 percent of the workforce, with the majority in Metro Manila. According to a study by the Asian Development Bank, personal funds remain to be the dominant source of financing among local SMEs, where only 39 percent of respondent citing bank loans as a funding means. Among the barriers to financing that were cited include slow fund disbursement due to lack of credit information, inadequate bank and government guidance on preparation of compliance documents, and vulnerability of financial institutions that result to high-cost of loans.