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[B-SIDE Podcast] Money Talks: Know yourself, know your path

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Money Talks is a series on personal finance sponsored by Metropolitan Bank & Trust Co. (Metrobank).

Local investors are propping up the Philippine investment market as according to the Philippine Stock Exchange, local retail investors accounted for 74.3% of the stock market transactions in the first quarter of 2021. Moreover, Finance Secretary and Capital Market Development Council (CMDC) chair Carlos G. Dominguez III said the increase in retail investor participation is a symbol of the trust and confidence of the public in the country’s investment landscape.

Yet many Filipinos are left out of this equation. In this B-Side episode, Sharon W. Zulueta, vice president and head of the trust retail products division at Metrobank, discusses with BusinessWorld why only a fraction of Filipinos put their trust in the financial market, and why more should.

TAKEAWAYS

Financial exclusion is still the norm for many Filipinos.

“To put it in context, out of the total adult population in the Philippines only 29% have a formal account–meaning an account with a bank, a microfinance non-government organization, has an e-money account, cooperative, etc. Of these, only 10% actually use it to invest. So only a tiny fraction of Filipinos invests in the market.,” Ms. Zulueta said.

Things will get better with the country’s growth.

Economic growth can naturally increase financial inclusion, as more Filipinos gain income and access to the financial system.

“The number of Filipinos that have opened formal accounts are those that have the capacity to stash away money in that account, or those people who have jobs who use that account to receive their salaries every month. So the ability of Filipinos to open a formal account is tied to the progress of the country,” Ms. Zulueta said.

“When the country progresses, more Filipinos will be more included in the financial system.

Take a step back.

Before investing, neophytes should first know why they’re getting into it. “You have to take a step back before you dive into the investing world,” said Ms. Zulueta. “You have to know yourself and know what type of investor you are.”

First-time investors should consider their purpose, their appetite for risk, their time horizon, and their hurdles.

There’s more to investing than time deposits.

“When we talk about assets, typically for Filipinos we think about cash, time deposits, money that is placed in savings or checking accounts. Why is it not necessarily a good thing even though you’re technically setting aside money?” Ms. Zulueta asked. “There’s the problem of inflation, or the rate by which prices of goods go up every year. Right now, inflation is at 4-5%. Let’s say you bought chicken last year for P100 a kilo, right now it’s going to be P104 a kilo. The value of your money actually goes down over time, unless you invest it.”

Look beyond the local market for opportunities.

Those who are already investing can stand to benefit from diversifying where they invest.

“One advice I would give in order to have a more diversified portfolio regardless of where you are in your investment life is looking beyond local. Diversifying your portfolio does not just mean diversifying your asset classes, it’s really diversifying in terms of geography. Look at investing in more developed countries like the US or Europe or even in other Asian countries,” Ms. Zulueta said.

“The Philippine stock market has been challenged in the past five to ten years for many reasons. But we’ve seen that the US market has done phenomenally well the past five to ten years, mainly driven by the technology industry. If you were just invested in the Philippine local market, you would have had dismal returns. But if your portfolio was a little more diversified in terms of geography, and you put a bit more money in markets outside the Philippines, you would have done better.”

It’s also a matter of trust.

For many people, banks or investing are unfamiliar concepts and that can have the effect of turning them away from the market altogether. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

“Banks have a fiduciary relationship with their clients. What does that mean? It means that banks have the responsibility to do what’s best for their clients. Especially for Filipinos who have limited experience with banks, trust is built over time,” Ms. Zulueta said.

“If you’re really not interested in investing, hire somebody whom you trust to do it for you. A bank can guide you and make it easy for you to have that exposure to different markets and for you to have sound asset management that would allow you to grow your assets over time.”

Recorded remotely on Oct. 15, 2021. Interview by Santiago J. Arnaiz, BusinessWorld contributor and chief operating officer of health startup Day3 Innovations. Research by BusinessWorld special features writer Bjorn Biel “JB” M. Beltran. Produced by Paolo L. Lopez and Sam L. Marcelo.

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