First Circle, a Philippine-based fintech startup, has gone nationwide with a bang, as it makes available a credit facility worth Php1.5-billion (around US$26 million) for small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

Now gone nationwideThe financial technology (fintech) firm headed by its co-founder and CEO Patrick Lynch was founded only in 2016 but has already made much headway both in gaining the trust of venture capitals (VCs), government agencies, and its target clients.

It has already provided short-term loans of from one to six months duration amounting to over Php700 million to SMEs. First Circle charges its clients around 1.99 percent to 2.49 percent monthly interest as well as 1.99 percent for processing fee.

SMEs can apply online through its website (www.firstcircle.ph) or mobile app. Financing may go as high as Php5 million and the loan proceeds if approve are up for release in five business days. No collateral, too.

They announced their going nationwide and their new credit facility at the launch on Wednesday, Oct. 3, at its headquarters in the Trade and Financial Tower in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City, where officials of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), etc., and their partners and clients celebrated the emerging company’s success at enabling SMEs.

Ambassador Jesus Tambunting, one of the country’s foremost champions of micro SMES (MSMEs) right out of college, also joined the event. He called to mind how he started in the financial and banking industry. He provided advice and lessons for everyone.

Patrick Tam and FCAmbassador Jesus P. Tambunting, former chairman of Planters Bank, and one of the foremost champions of the Philippines’ micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), recalls his beginnings in the financial and banking industry right out of college. He also provided lessons for both financing agencies and entrepreneurs at First Circle’s launch of its Php1.5-billion loan facility for SMEs on October 3 as it goes nationwide. (EKU)

Partnership with government

First Circle Growth Finance Corp. has partnered with the DTI, whose head, Secretary Ramon Lopez, has given his full support. Lopez and Lynch signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) as they put ink to paper during the event to implement their partnership’s various objectives.

First Circle makes available its funds through its digital platform, offering a quick and easy way to apply for a loan, taking much care to make it convenient for entrepreneurs, eliminating the hassles normally associated with other fintech lending companies that turn off applicants.

Lopez recalled that he came to know First Circle before he became a DTI secretary and already saw the company’s promise then.

Thus, DTI’s top official did not have second thoughts when the company came to him for support. The DTI and First Circle have found convergence in their mutual support for SMEs.

Contract SigningFrom left: First Circle CTO Tony Ennis, ex-SEC chairperson Teresita Herbosa, SBC president Ma. Luna Cacanando, BSP Deputy Governor Chuchi Fonacier, Amb. Jesus Tambunting, DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez, First Circle CEO Patrick Lynch, SEC Com. Ephyro Amatong, First Circle CCO Axel Regnstrom, and First Circle VP for External Affairs Benedict Carandang at launch nationwide of First Circle’s Php1.5-billion credit facility for SMEs. (First Circle)  

DTI support

“The DTI (is) deeply committed to developing SMEs. It is because of our mission alignment that we have been selected by the DTI as their official partner. We can leverage the educational tools and other resources of the DTI and use our capabilities in distribution to reach more businesses than ever before,” he said.

Lynch emphasized that at the core of his fintech company is about empowerment of business owners who partner with First Circle to bring their business to higher level.

The company, which has in its plans offering its services to SMEs beyond the Philippine borders takes pride in its speedy growth in only two years, driven by fast application process for business owners as well as being convenient and flexible.

With this smooth process, SMEs have the opportunity to not only survive, but to thrive, that opens doors for productive growth.

Lynch said that with the DTI backing as well as the BSP’s, First Circle will be able to reach more businesses as well as raise the size of its credit limits to the strongest businesses.

“Working together in this way in which both parties win and the relationship is mutually sustainable is having profound impact on the hundreds of business owners we serve each month and in aggregate drives productive economic growth,” he emphasized.

Customers’ testimony

Three of the company’s customers, CARVE of Davao City headed by Thomas Secuya, First Circle’s first nationwide customer; ERMZ Marketing led by Irene Malaca; and Maximum Data Infrastructure Technologies, Inc. under CEO Michael Makinano provided testimonies, saying they were really surprised at the speed of their loans’ approval even though they have not met or known personally First Circle’s officials.

Secuya, Malaca, and Makinano applied for their loans only through the internet.

First Circle & DTI MOU SigningDTI Secretary Ramon Lopez (center), First Circle CEO Patrick Lynch & SBC president Ma. Luna Cacanando at Php1.5-billion credit facility launch nationwide .(Photo: First Circle)

Meanwhile, Fintechnews.sg reported that First Circle’s fresh investments of Php1.5 billion is from a Series A round it was able to raise led by Venturra Capital.

“The funding is a follow-on investment from international firms Insignia Ventures Partners, Silverhorn Investment Advisors, and tryb Group underscoring continued strong venture capital (VC) interest in Southeast Asia,” Fintechnews.sg pointed out.

Among those in the event included BSP Deputy Governor Chuchi Fonacier, Seccurity and Exchange Commission (SEC) Commissioner Ephyro Amatong, UnionBank CEO Justo A. Ortiz, former SEC chairperson Teresita Herbosa, Small Business Corporation (SBC) president Ma. Luna E. Cacanando, and Credit Information Corporation (CIC) president Jaime Garchitorena.

Benedict Carandang, First Circle vice president for External Relations, told SDN — Scitech and Digital News . thousands have already applied for the fresh credit facility since its soft-launch in April this year.

First Circle has a wide base of potential clients from the country’s MSMEs.

Figures from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that in its 2016 List of Establishments there are 915,726 business firms operating in the country.

The PSA said of the total business establishments 911,768 (99.5 percent) belonged to MSMEs; 820,795 — micro (89.63 percent), 86,955 small (9.50 percent), and 4,018 — medium (0.44 percent). Only 3,958 (0.43 percent) were large enterprises.

Lynch said First Circle has been receiving large demand the country’s business owners nationwide who were asking when would the company go Philippine-wide in its operation.

“We are delighted to be able to extend our services to SMEs all over the Philippines,” he said, referrencing First Circle’s fresh huge credit facility as well as DTI’s and BSP’s strong support. (EKU)