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adobo Talks: Lista Co-Founder Aaron Villegas and financial coaches talk inclusion and culture

MANILA, PHILIPPINES 一 Many businesses, especially micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), still prefer to use the traditional “blue” logbook in tracking finances day-to-day — Filipinos, in particular, prefer traditional ways of saving and tracking money through envelope method, coin bank, and the most simple pen and paper or listahan, a Filipino term for “list.” Recognizing the issue with this lack of financial literacy, a proudly Filipino-made financial management mobile application has stepped in.

In a special episode of adobo Talks held on June 27, Lista Co-founder Aaron Villegas discussed the company’s business goals, while several key opinion leaders and financial advisers gathered to discuss the importance of financial management for personal and business growth.

“We have a lot of users using it for personal finances. We have online sellers [and] freelancers. By listening closely to them, we’ve adapted features such as invoice, sales target, savings feature, and we hope to continue evolving Lista as we move forward,” Villegas said.

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Lista is a free bookkeeping app for Filipino MSMEs that digitizes transactions, but its vision is so much bigger than that. According to Villegas, they started with the owners of sari-sari stores as their initial target market, but as they move forward, they aim to empower Filipinos to take control of their finances.

Features that cater to the Filipino

As an app specifically made for Filipinos, one of the financial problems that Lista wanted to fix was the concept of utang [debt] to which a lot of Filipinos are hesitant to talk about. 

“[Utang] creates a lot of disputes [and fights without being understood.] That fact [that sometimes it’s considered embarrassing] to ask your money back when in fact that’s your money. That’s what we saw. The way Lista solves it is basically by becoming a middleman instead of you going directly to the that person, or being them, you can easily log your payables and receivables inside Lista and Lista would send them payment reminders and in fact what we saw was on average, our users were able to collect their money three times faster,” Villegas shared.

The payment reminder feature through Lista app lets clients, friends, and contacts be reminded of the pending payment they have to settle to the recipient. This feature was the one that caught the attention of Financial Coach and Content Creator Yani Moya

Moya shared that her startup became easier to track and to manage with the use of the Lista app. As a small business owner, she shared that friends sometimes forget to pay for the product or service they bought from her, and through the payment reminder feature of the app, it enabled her to ask for the money back.

This is also one of the favorite features of Financial Advisor and Content Creator Antonette Aquino who also shared that the invoice generator feature from the app attracted her to use it for freelancing. “It helps ensure we get paid by our clients on time and it also keep things professional. It’s very useful for those who have to send invoice to their clients [and] to brands,” she said.

The savings tracker feature, on the other hand, is one of the more notable features of Mommy Gracie, a content creator and the founder of Tipid Mommy. According to her, allows her to track where her money goes and reveals whether or not she is making progress according to her financial goals. 

Co-founder Villegas mentioned that the “Ipon Challenge, a campaign Lista launched in April to encourage Filipinos to save money, was a massive success. “A lot of Filipinos [started] recording their savings. We saw a lot of them achieve those savings,” he said.

The importance of financial literacy

A lot of Filipinos still lack knowledge of financial management, with a lack of education being one of the pain points that the key opinion speakers focused on during the panel. Fortunately, information is becoming more accessible as financial advisors are becoming more and more savvy with content on Facebook, Youtube, and Tiktok.

For Mommy Gracie, financial literacy is important not only for the benefit of oneself, but also for the benefit of the family. She said, “We’ve been through a lot of financial problem as a couple [and] as a family, and during that season, doon namin nakita yung financial holes namin. We want to share those lessons…in a hard way. I’m really thankful [now] because everything is accessible online.”

Starting the tough conversations around money is what Moya really felt Filipinos must start doing immediately. She said that many still find money intimidating to talk about. 

“I want to really make it easier for people to understand…Through content creation, my initial goal is to helo bridge the gap between the uneducated Filipinos when it comes to finances and those who are benefitting so much when it comes to money ultimately because they know how to manage it,” Moya said.

Watching over your finances and tracking them is as important as monitoring your mental and physical health; Aquino described the importance of financial literacy in this way, connecting it to her brand Money Health Check. As a content creator, she uses Tiktok to create a simplified concept of personal finance.

Until financial literacy becomes a norm in the country, Lista is here to stay. Villegas shared that they look forward to adapting the app with features that are relevant and helpful to more people. 

“Our vision is essentially have Lista in every Filipinos phone. We want to introduce more financial services such as payments and credits,” Villegas said when asked how he envisioned the app may evolve over the next few years. 

Lista is available to download both on App Store and Google Play. To know more about Lista, visit their page on Facebook

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