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Mariana Zobel de Ayala on the Future of Financial Inclusion in the Philippines  

JAZA's eldest shares her two cents on what it will take to improve Filipino lives.
IMAGE YOUTUBE/AYALA CORP. CONVERSATIONS
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In McKinsey & Company’s Philippine Growth Dialogues series, Mariana Zobel de Ayala shared her thoughts on fintech, financial inclusion, and what it will take to improve the future of Filipinos. The eldest child of Ayala Corp. chairman Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, Mariana leads the next generation of Zobels as they take on more responsibilities in Ayala Corp.

The younger Zobel started her career at J.P. Morgan Chase and at Ayala Malls. Now heading retail strategies as vice president at Bank of the Philippine Islands, Mariana is also on the board of BPI’s Asset Management and Trust and other companies in the conglomerate. With her position at one of the biggest banks in the Philippines, she had a lot to say about economic potential in the Philippines.

Describing Filipinos as “uniquely adaptable,” Zobel sees Filipino consumers quickly digesting any global technological advancements in the future.

“Growth around technology will have quite a magnified impact on the Filipino consumer—on quality of life, on financial inclusion, and on general access and connectivity—hopefully translating to benefits in education and exposure,” she said.

According to Mariana, Filipinos' smooth adoption of e-commerce, fintech, and tech entertainment is a testament to this fact, and the opportunities these innovations present to the market will only empower Filipino consumers and inspire healthy competition for the economy.

“Digitalization has a massive opportunity to serve as an equalizer for the Philippines. It will bring costs down for a lot of opportunities in the financial-services space and in other consumer spaces,” said Zobel. “That’s going to allow for greater access and participation of the Filipino producer and consumer.”

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But progress won’t be without its challenges, especially if Filipinos are left behind. The answer to this is to invest more in education, infrastructure, financial services, and healthcare.

“Inequality—whether in education, financial inclusion, or healthcare—will continue to challenge our growth potential,” said Mariana. “True progress will come when Filipinos have more control over their destiny—a line I borrowed from my cousin and colleague—and that will only come, in turn, if basic needs are provided at a level that is competitive globally.”

Perhaps once we overcome these challenges to achieve true progress, Filipinos will reverse the “brain drain” of our service-driven market, which typically seek out opportunities abroad.

“I would hope that in the next decade, we’d see a shift in this by finding ways to grow the country’s attractiveness and the competitiveness of employment opportunities locally,” said Zobel. “I believe that a flip in this imbalance—this brain drain—would be an indication of true progress and economic development.”

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Anri Ichimura
Section Editor, Esquire Philippines
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