IN THE past three weeks, technological options on offer increased by three for consumers—two banks are expanding their fintech portfolios to their customers and one start-up is offering prescription drugs through an app.
Two weeks ago, Republic Bank announced the launch of Endcash, a new digital payment and social hub built for smartphone use. And, earlier this month as well, medl, a start-up by Kiran Mathur Mohammed and Edward Inglefield, began offering prescription drugs through an app, entering the pharmaceutical market.
Last week, majority state-owned First Citizens Bank announced it was acquiring a 19.9 per cent minority stake in Term Finance (Holdings), a web-based credit institution.
According to Republic’s executive director Derwin Howell, Endcash is a mobile wallet-social media hybrid that merchants and consumers can access instantly by downloading the app from either the Apple Store, the Google Play Store or accessing via the website (www.endcash.com).
If the name seems basic, it’s because Howell wants it to be a verb.
“So we want someone to say, I will Endcash you the payment,” he said.
As long as you have a smartphone, you can use the app, even if you don’t bank with Republic.
“You would quicker leave home without your wallet than you would your phone,” he pointed out.
How did the banks react to knowing any of their customers could use the app?
“Well, they’ll find out when they read the story,” he laughed.
In the end, it is about gradually reducing the use of cash in favour of digital transactions.
“In this regard, a mobile wallet service is a new and sleek way to pay, in keeping with international trends, and therefore an ideal opportunity to facilitate a cashless eco-system,” he said.
“Consumers will have the ability to load their mobile wallets with any VISA or MasterCard branded card. Once the consumer’s wallet is loaded, they can now exchange digital funds with participating merchants as payment for goods and/or services, via the scanning of a QR code or via payment requests.
“Consumers can also send these funds to other users instantly, to make person to person (P2P) transfers to their friends’ and family’s wallets. The application will also facilitate business to customer (B2C) and business to business (B2B) payments. Consumers can also review businesses and share their payments and experience on their newsfeed,” said Howell.
He said merchants can use this platform to communicate directly with their customers and post promotions, updates, and more on their Endcash newsfeed. They can also use the social media platform to display their products and request payments from customers. Merchants, as well, can pay other merchants for their products and services via the B2B feature. Merchants and consumers can also transfer funds from the mobile wallet to their traditional banking account via the ACH channel, he told Express Business in an interview two weeks ago.
And he believes the market is more than ready.
“The traditional method of accepting a physical credit or debit card as payment for goods and/or services is becoming archaic for some generational cohorts, namely the Gen Z (18–21-year-old consumers) and Gen Y (22-37 years old). These consumers want to use their mobile, smart devices for multiple purposes, not only for talking, texting, surfing the “net”, but also as a payment instrument. This reduces the consumption of paper (some are environmentally conscious) and it eliminates the need to walk with a bulky wallet, thereby minimising their security risk. Merchants want to enhance their customers’ experience and create a frictionless check-out/payment process,” Howell said.
“The bank needs to be able to respond to the needs of the market, especially the younger generational cohorts, in order to secure the bank’s survival and competitive advantage as these cohorts will become the main revenue streams of the future. Covid-19 took a toll on our local businesses. This also revealed that a new and innovative approach was needed to transact business virtually,” he said.
He observed that Endcash will also give smaller merchants a technologically savvy and cost-effective way of receiving electronic payments, without the requirement for any start-up equipment.
He noted that before the product was approved by the Central Bank, they were cautious given that T&T was still a heavy cash-based society.
But the Central Bank is on board, he said.
The acquisition of 19.9 per cent of Term Finance by First Citizens will allow the majority State-owned bank to fully leverage its digital capability and suite of banking services through the web-based entity to thousands of under-banked individual customers and small businesses across the region, without requiring any shopfront footprint.
“The investment gives First Citizens a minority stake in Term Finance Holdings Limited, which owns and operates subsidiaries involved in micro-lending businesses in TT, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and St Lucia.
“The company has minority partners in Jamaica, St Lucia and in the newly established small-business (SME) lending arm in TT,” the statement of the announcement said.
Oliver Sabga, Term Finance’s chief executive told the Express Business that the financial details of the transaction is subject to a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA).
“This deal positions Term Finance strategically to grow our loan portfolio and widen our product offering. Both entities will benefit from immediate synergies in markets where we both operate and growth opportunities in markets where one or the other currently operates. Our relationship with First Citizens dates back to the inception of Term Finance. From then to now, we have developed an appreciation for their experience and reputation and they’ve developed an appreciation for our technology and innovation,” Sabga said.
“Since then, Term Finance has processed over 38,000 loan applications without ever having to meet a customer face-to-face,” the statement said.
“Having First Citizens as a partner increases our access to funding and allows us to leverage their banking infrastructure to grow our product and service offering. Term Finance’s technology will allow First Citizens to cater to an underserved segment of the market in a way that’s never been done before within the Caribbean region,” he said.
Sabga observed that over the past few years Term Finance has been focused on consumer and small-business credit: “We’ve been able to revolutionise the way employees and SMEs borrow. With First Citizens as our partner, we’ll now be able to broaden our scope into other financial services while maintaining our agility and digital interface,” he said.
As for how involved First Citizens would be in the Term Finance’s work ahead, he answered: “We have welcomed a very active involvement from First Citizens to date and plan to continue to benefit from their knowledge and expertise. We have a lot of exciting developments in our pipeline that will require both organisations to collaborate. Term Finance’s suite of products include consumer credit, small-business credit, eCommerce with product financing (www.mytfshop.com) and pre-paid MasterCard services powered by First Citizens (www.mytfcard.com).
medl is a pharmacy start-up by developmental economist Kiran Mathur Mohammed and former chef and entrepreneur Edward Inglefield.
The duo’s goal is to reinvent the meaning of pharmacy in Latin America & the Caribbean. But it’s starting in T&T.
medl was selected as one of just five out of 500 organisations in Latin America and the Caribbean to win a US$150,000 grant by the Inter-American Development Bank.
“Unlike unregulated online pharmacies, medl is the first in the region to be fully compliant with local legislation and regulations, adhering to international security standards and sourcing medication solely from licenced distributors. medl’s innovative new app allows patients to order prescription medication delivered to their door within three days from their in-house pharmacy, whose pharmacists call patients to manage their medication,” the company’s statement said.
“It’s unacceptable that six in ten people in the Caribbean die from chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes. What makes this worse is that almost all of these can be completely managed with existing medication. As it is, one in two scripts are never filled,” said Mathur Mohammed.
The company said its pharmacy team is led by senior pharmacist Katisha Narinesingh, who is committed to bring a new standard to continual care and protecting patients from fraudulent medications rife in the industry.
“We believe healthcare can and should be simpler,” said Inglefield. “Right now, there are so many pain points in the way of people getting their medication—time, hassle, access, cost and information. We looked at the process from start to finish, interviewing more than 60 doctors to identify and remove each pain point.”
Mathur Mohammed said more than 100 doctors have already signed up and they will use medl’s proprietary portal to send prescriptions to the patient app. It will be launched in Port of Spain and along the East-West corridor up to Arima (with selected drop-off locations in Central and South Trinidad) and will roll-out across Trinidad.