MANILA, Philippines, November 12, 2021 – CreditEase, a China-based diversified conglomerate with a global footprint; and Plug and Play APAC, a tech-focused venture capital firm, made significant investments in Smile API, a newly-launched information infrastructure startup company in the Philippines opening up new opportunities for financial inclusion among the underbanked and unbanked by means of leveraging on employment data especially among freelancers and gig workers.
Both investors backed Smile API seeing great potential in the startup's Application Programming Interface (API) designed to bring wider financial inclusion by interconnecting data from businesses, workers, banks and fintech firms to its digital platform, a first of its kind in the Asia Pacific (APAC) Region.
Temporary workers in today's growing gig economy are the target end-users of Smile API like personal shopper, courier delivery person, drivers in the rideshare and food delivery businesses, tasker, pet sitter, to name a few.
Kevin Aok, Head of Strategic Investment and M&A from CreditEase, explains why Smile API is eyeing the Philippines first: "We are looking for markets with a higher potential growth rate. Many Filipinos have stable income and the Philippines is largely English-speaking."
Ziheng Li, Senior Ventures Analyst at Plug and Play Singapore, shares why Smile API is the right API for the region at this time: "Unlike other global markets such as the US and China, where employer data APIs are common, there is no API or service similar to Smile API in the region."
Founded only last April, Smile API as a digital platform sets the stage for Open Finance, which is a more inclusive model than Open Banking. Compared to open banking, open finance solves the problem of accessing primary employment data instead of bank data, bridging the gaps in the gaining of financial products and services by the unbanked, like the gig workers in particular.
Smile API CEO Jerome Eger discloses the company continues to build and enhance its information infrastructure since receiving the new capital in June to better serve more clients in the Philippines and Southeast Asia.
Eger points out, "What we offer becomes not just a win but a win-win-win solution for businesses, their employees, and mostly for third-party providers like banks, financial institutions, and other vendors whose services are made more accessible to potential customers."
Eger cites Smile API empowers people to have their own data, and to use that data for their own good. For the end users for example, wallets, loans, insurances, digital bank accounts and many more applications become available through a simple but clear white labeled interface within the client application using the Smile API infrastructure, all while keeping the end user in full control of what data is shared and with whom.
According to Eger: "Focusing on employment data enables modern applications with the needed identity, employment and financial information of not just those who have access to banks and financial services, but also those without, catering to a wider range of clients."
Smile API for instance helps fast track the loan or financing application process by facilitating approval (or rejection) within just a few seconds. In so doing, Smile API delivers significant value to workers who need to secure financial and/or related services; employers who can recover
operational time lost to the cumbersome paper trail; and financial institutions that can experience fast, secure transactions in the many moribund application procedures.
In a survey by Smile API, Eger says: "We found that on the average, for every 100 employees in any given company, there are three to five requests for certificates of employment per week. A person in HR handles this, and it takes company time that can be better used for other business matters. While they need to do this, this process has no value for the employers."
Eger likens Smile API to infrastructure that connects, using technology: "We provide bridges that allow data to move quickly between employer to bank or vendor, but the user has complete control of whether or not they cross the bridge. The customer has to grant explicit consent for each transaction, and decides what data is shared with whom and at what time."
Still relatively new, Smile API aims to provide a service unlike any in the region. After the Philippines, the plan is to expand across Asia and the APAC region.
As early as now, Smile API is already forming alliances in the Philippines with like-minded innovators. One such partner is Johanne Lim, the CEO of MoveForward Inc. (MFI)., an online buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) provider for the unbanked in the country.
Lim elaborates on what Smile API's revolutionary technology has done for the industry: "With the Philippines becoming more of a gig and freelancer economy, the problem is that we have no centralized system in the country that provides reliable employment information. With Smile API, we are keen to gain understanding of our new market."
Eger says, "Smile API is all about empowerment and financial inclusion, especially for those who have to suffer through seemingly endless red tape. Our solutions relieve you of the stress of application and enable you to achieve your goals, personal and professional." He adds, "We are very excited to see how innovative companies in fintech and even beyond, build on the infrastructure we are developing at Smile API in the future."
Smile Technology Pte Ltd is one trusted source for employment data in Asia. Smile provides user-authorized access to valuable employment and income data from HR, payroll, commerce, and marketplace platforms through a single API. Banks, fintechs, recruitment agencies, and other service providers can leverage employment and income data to increase adoption and conversion, reduce cost, and reduce risk. Permission to access their own personal data is given by each individual users themselves, so they can seamlessly share this data with the parties they trust.
CreditEase is a leading FinTech conglomerate in China, specializing in inclusive finance and wealth management, including payment technology, marketplace lending, crowdfunding, robo-advisory, insurance technology, and blockchain products and services. CreditEase actively engages with global FinTech innovators through business incubation, commercial cooperation and investment.
About Plug and Play APAC
Plug and Play APAC, headquartered in Singapore, catalyzes technological advancement by connecting blue chip corporations with the brightest startups across the globe. Plug and Play Tech Center at Silicon Valley launched its Asia Pacific headquarters in 2010 to invest in high tech startups in the region. It focuses primarily on Financial Services, Travel and Hospitality, Health and Sustainability. It also runs specialized programs in collaboration with partners such as Facebook and the Alliance to End Plastic Waste.