[Executive Edge] The company protecting you from Internet scammers

MANILA, Philippines – In the Philippines, we hear about new m.o.’s and scams almost every week, many of them now perpetuated through the Internet. Who keeps us safe from these cyber criminals? If you have a credit card or participated in e-commerce, there’s a good chance that Ralph Santos had a hand in your protection.

Santos is one of the most successful anti-fraud experts in the country, consulting with everyone from banks, large corporations, and even the Philippine government. His work in this space led him to create the platform VMoney.

Santos recalled, “I observed OFWs who frequented brick and mortar money transfer services that levied disproportionately expensive fees and took days to process remittances to the Philippines. I felt that it was imperative to deliver solutions that simplify the experience and enrich people’s lives.”

“Hence in 2013,” Santos continued, “I formed VMoney – a powerful consumer-centric system that offers revolutionary technology to the common consumer. I envisioned equipping Filipinos all over the world with the capability to provide for their loved ones and manage their finances in real-time, anytime, anywhere, at highly competitive fees.”

Enter VMoney

Certified and accredited by both the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), VMoney offers unique benefits to both consumers and businesses alike. For consumers, VMoney could be roughly compared to a Philippine version of Paypal, though it offers financial services unique to our country.

Santos said, “For consumers, VMoney enters the picture as a comprehensive payment portal with a secure and simple interface enabling members to access and manage their funds through a dashboard that allows them to easily send and receive funds in real-time, pay bills online, buy prepaid load, shop online, and avail of a VMoney Prepaid MasterCard.”

Such features allow any Filipino – even the famously “unbanked” – to avail of the “same benefits as those enjoyed by the banked minority.” Alternatively, on the merchant end, VMoney is infinitely customizable and can include such features as “funds disbursement, online and point-of-sale payment acceptance, and loyalty and rewards programs.”

As an example of just how customizable their system is for businesses, Santos said, “If a business would like a proprietary payment-processing platform with the capability to accept multiple forms of payment, including NFC tap payments and even QR code, we present VMerchant.”

Cultural challenges

As robust of a system VMoney already is, it’s easy to overlook all the many challenges that went its development. For example, to customize the systems for businesses, Santos’ team had to put in an unprecedented amount of legwork, perhaps more than you would expect from a tech company.

He said, “One of our biggest challenges would be customizing the platform’s features according to the different needs of consumers and businesses we were talking to, which required tremendous amounts of research and constant communication. We were engaging with banks and dealing with businesses on a daily basis and being able to understand their current systems and how it works is integral to pinpoint what their primary need is.”

But many of the challenges involved not just putting in the hours, but going against cultural mores, including the Filipino propensity to maintain a healthy dose of skepticism.

Santos explained, “Apart from dealing with regulatory and bank requirements, which we completely understand, VMoney met a lot of skepticism when it first entered the local industry. From the onset, we worked to establish VMoney’s credibility as an extensive, end-to-end e-commerce solution for businesses.  Many groups were doubtful about our claim of what our system can do and that we can revolutionize the payment landscape.”

And those companies that bought into Santos’ vision often tried to emulate the idea themselves. “Others tried to replicate our technology,” Santos said, “but our years of professional experience dealt us well in development. Our team continued to work hard, businesses saw our solutions, and within a short span, acceptance of our products came organically.”  

Most of this traction is coming from the merchant, rather than the consumer, end of VMoney.

Santos said, “As for membership, we have a good number so far and we are estimating to have about a million by the end of the year, majority of which we will be getting from project commitments with merchants. I believe that when we start to market more widely, consumers are going to see the value we are offering and thus convert to membership.”

The future of VMoney

As successful as VMoney is quickly becoming, Santos, being a big-picture kind of guy, is quick to situate the company in the context of what it can do for Philippine e-commerce as a whole.  

Santos said, “I like to believe that we are innovating the e-commerce industry and will continue to do so. We want to further an era where consumers are financially empowered and we are working hard to promote acceptance of secure wireless transactions.  We want to transform and streamline the payment landscape by developing technological innovations ahead of our competitors.”

“As we continue to do this, we want VMoney to reach maximum ubiquity,” Santos revealed. “We designed VMoney with the idea to help elevate the quality of life for Filipinos, for both consumers and businesses, for them to have instant and convenient access to their money. We continue to build on this idea and partner with businesses and government agencies to bring all payment channels under one place – the VMoney account.”

“In sync with our vision,” Santos concluded, “we want to continue redefining the standard for security, simplicity, and convenience for e-commerce in the Philippines with solutions that constantly pave the way for greater business efficiencies and consumer experience.”

Santos understands that the success of VMoney many inspire other technopreneurs, some of whom may even be competitors, as is already happening. Still, Santos was eager to share his advice on how technopreneurs can succeed in the Philippines.

He advised, “Self-belief, passion, hard work, focus, and perseverance – these are all critical and foundational traits in reaching your goal. But to be competitive, to be ahead of the game and capture the market, you must plan and execute properly. Be prepared, be aware, and widen your peripheral vision as anything and everything can come up to hinder your progress, especially when you have comprehensive and complex products that require great detail and attention.”  

Santos went on, “Wear the ‘Project Management’ hat tightly. Lead, direct, facilitate, be an example, resolve issues, collaborate, action deliverables, and most of all, prove it. Prove your product, prove that it works, prove that it will help, prove that it will truly be of service. Expect pain, sweat, and tears, and surrender to the journey completely.” – Rappler.com

 

Rappler business columnist Ezra Ferraz graduated from UC Berkeley and the University of Southern California, where he taught writing for 3 years. He now consults full-time for educational companies in the United States. He brings you Philippine business leaders, their insights, and their secrets via Executive Edge. Follow him on Twitter: @EzraFerraz