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‘Be Bold’ — How Maya evolved from challenger to the fastest-growing digital bank

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — Internet & Mobile Marketing Association of the Philippines’ (IMMAP) DigiCon Valley 2022 saw the biggest and most anticipated digital conference in the country come to life last October. The event highlighted the start-up economy and featured 100 global speakers and 65 sessions.

This was the stage Maya Chief Marketing Officer Pepe Torres took to discuss how all-in-one banking app Maya was challenging the industry — or more specifically, testing its competitors.

More and more customers are switching over to Maya, Pepe shared, and they continue to see growth in exponential terms.

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“For the first time in a long time, we see organic conversations from customers who are seeing that we are offering a better experience and seeing us in a whole new light as we have repositioned towards becoming not just a payments company but also a digital bank,” he said.

Pepe’s talk, entitled “How Boldness Wins: From Challenger Brand to #1 Digital Bank,” began with a reminder about where Maya was in 2021. Still known as PayMaya, the brand had three distinct businesses: enterprise, domestic remittance, and consumer app. Although the latter was the top-rated, trusted, and pioneering consumer e-wallet app in the country, it fell behind its key competition sometime in the same year.
 
“That really made us take a step back and figure out what we needed to do,” Pepe said. Propelled into action, he emphasized that they’ve been incredibly busy at Maya since.
 
“We were the only incumbent fintech to secure a digital banking license here in the Philippines, and we also got our crypto license allowing us to relaunch and reposition towards a whole new value proposition.“
 
Ushering in a new banking era, Maya took its most crucial step to date: its strategic rebrand.
 

This transformation was the turning point that took the brand from challenger e-wallet to the leading digital bank in the Philippines. And Pepe credits this to three things: bold strategy, bold design, and bold execution.
 
Being brave enough to change the game
 
“If the current game that you’re playing isn’t giving you the results that you want, sometimes you have to pivot and reposition,” Pepe said.
 
To emphasize Maya’s stand on brand strategy and repositioning, he revealed one of its inspirations: Oatly, a Swedish food company that produces alternatives to dairy products from oats.
 
Oatly has been disrupting the beverage industry over the past few years. The brand, driven by a larger global trend of veganism and sustainability, anchored itself on a younger savvy market that not only cares about coffee, but also climate change. Aiming at the segment of society that is most likely to adopt a plant-based lifestyle, Oatly strongly repositioned itself as the healthier and more sustainable alternative to milk.
 

“We also had to take very similar steps. We wanted to make sure we anchored ourselves on the right market moving forward, which we refer to as inspiring self-starters,” Pepe shared. “They skew Gen Y and Z because they create and consume more financial content than any other generation. In terms of psychographics, they believe that financial independence is key to personal independence.”
 
He explained that no other generation has expressed the same level of interest in investing, not just in mutual funds but also stocks and crypto. It was Pepe’s observation that for these groups, many of them were “unhappily banked.”
 
“Chances are a lot of us have more than a few finance apps on our phones. Maybe you have your app from your traditional bank because that’s where your salary or your paycheck comes through,” he said. “And then you have a digital banking app because they possibly offer a better experience or a higher interest rate. And, of course, we have these e-wallets that offer better payment convenience. Finally, if you’re interested in crypto, that’s a whole other app.”
 
This is a shining example of what it means to be unhappily banked – having multiple financial apps on your phone for different functions and ending up getting a broken experience when it comes to your money needs. And this is where Maya comes in. As an all-in-one banking app, Maya enables customers to complete all their transactions seamlessly in just one platform – whether they want to grow, save, spend, or master their money.
 
As Maya anchors itself on this younger, investment and digital savvy generation, the brand assures innovation built on three pillars: tech empowerment, meaningful personalization, and community security.
 
Investing in a bold design identity
 
A key inspiration for Maya’s rebrand was Glossier, a popular skincare and beauty brand. Pepe made the case that Glossier has a very strong identity and recognizable brand aesthetic that travels from its website to its physical stores and social media.
 
The brand was so well-loved that when it launched GlossiWEAR, its fashion and merch line; it sold out products almost immediately. What started out with a gray sweatshirt paved the way for massive expansion because, fundamentally, its market resonated with the design at the core of the brand.
 
“We invested in working with a world-class design team to help us with the rebrand,” Pepe said. “We did our best to really infuse it into every aspect of our execution, from what the customer sees to what we have in our own office.”
 
This is a move that, according to Pepe, is starting to reap its rewards. “One very practical example is the design of our card. On the surface, it’s a simple debit card but it’s something that has gotten so much interest and traction amongst the market because they love how it’s designed.”
 
In fact, Maya users have been creating unboxing videos even without the brand asking them to, proving that the design is resonating with the market. The team also launched a dance challenge on TikTok, where a popular creator Niana Guerrero wore the brand’s hoodie. Fans of the social media star were quick to ask where they could purchase the same piece of merch.
 
The value they placed on the redesign process assured Maya that people were willing to pay for its merchandise, a privilege usually reserved for a fashion brand.
 
“We did challenge ourselves upfront,” Pepe said. “Some of the best design brands are ones that people want to wear on their bodies, so we asked ourselves: How do we get there? And I think that’s something that I think it’s still possible for everyone to aspire to.”
 
But ideas are just ideas
 
Concluding his talk, Pepe said bold ideas cannot stay in conference rooms and boardrooms forever. The follow through is just as crucial as the ideation, despite the possible cold feet that may come with it. After all, execution is the only strategy that the customer ever sees.
 
Reflecting on his own personal inspiration, Pepe shared a campaign film from Liquid Death, a canned-water company and one of his favorite brands in recent years.
 

“When you see cans like this that say Liquid Death, the first thing that comes to your mind must be beer, an energy drink, or some sort of alcoholic beverage. So it’s surprising to see that it’s actually water,” Pepe said. “But again, this was very deliberate in terms of strategy design and execution. Their CEO was clear that he wanted to make something healthy that was just as cool as the junk food, energy drink, and alcohol brands.”
 
Pepe emphasized that at Maya, everything they do is aligned with the brand’s twin values of defiance and optimism.
 
“We defy the conventions that hold customers back from having better experiences, or conventions that hold us back from having more interesting or resonant marketing within this industry. But we’re also optimistic that we’re doing this to accelerate financial progress within the country so Filipinos can live richer lives, sooner rather than later.”

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