Mae Mendoza: Hi, I'm Mae Mendoza, Manager of the Sales & Marketing division at Robert Walters Philippines, and I'm your host for this episode of our Career Advice podcast series. In this session, we will discuss how the exciting field of cryptocurrency is faring in the Philippines, and in demand skills that FinTech employers are looking for and the available opportunities for job seekers in 2021.
So, let me introduce our guest for today's podcast. He is a graduate from University of British Columbia, who is now the Crypto Marketing Associate at Coins.PH. Welcome Franco, and thank you so much for finding time for us.
Franco Araneta: Thank you Mae and thank you Robert Walters as well for having me on. I'm always happy to talk about Crypto.
Mae: I'm sure of that. Okay. Let's get started. So for the benefit of our listeners and viewers, Franco, who don't know you yet, tell us a little bit about yourself, your career journey, and also a bit about Coins.ph.
Franco: Okay. Sure. So I'll start off with what is Coins.ph. So for those of you who don't know, Coins.ph is a Southeast Asian Fintech company, and it basically enables anyone including those even without a bank account, to easily access financial services directly from their phone.
So one of our major taglines is "My Phone is My Wallet" and that's really the whole goal of the Coins.ph app. We actually started seven years ago, I believe. And right now, we serve over 10 million customers and we're basically one of the first companies to feature cryptocurrency and reached mainstream adoption.
And basically, our app allows you direct access to banking and digital payment services. And of course, being able to buy and sell crypto as well. So just to run through the list of like all of the different functions our app has, basically you can send money from any Coins wallet to Coins wallet, send remittances abroad, buy load, load your beep card, buy game credits, pay bills.
So basically, it's your one-stop shop for anything payment related. And we of course have the added bonus of being able to buy and sell cryptocurrency as well. So that's kind of where I come in, actually. So I basically started off my journey with crypto, well, I guess the unofficial start was in 2014.
That's when I first heard about it. I was still in college and I believe I tried to basically mine bitcoin. So, you know, I don't have access to that laptop anymore. But hopefully, someone out there has access to a hundreds of bitcoins I left in there. But yeah, my official start with my crpyto journey was in 2017. So I just graduated college and I was looking for new job opportunities whether that was in banking or basically around the financial services industry. During this time, my brother-in-law kind of told me about bitcoin. And though I heard about, I didn't really like do the research at the time and I didn't actually invest.
So, I basically started off by downloading the Coins app and purchasing my first ever piece of Bitcoin. And from there, I just track the price every day and kind of got addicted to looking at my initial investment. But more than that, I started to also explore the technology behind bitcoin - so blockchain technology. And I ended up kind of in this rabbit hole of searching for different YouTube videos, Reddit posts, Twitter articles, books on the potential for this technology to change the financial services industry. So because of all that research, I eventually stumbled on a position as a Customer Service Representative for this crypto startup called SEI at that time.
And I eventually got the job and this really gave me kind of a first hands on the ground experience of how people understand crypto. 'Cause I would be the one in charge of answering all of the customer service inquiries and questions if they had any issues with sending bitcoin or receiving bitcoin.
Part of my job was to not only help the customer solve whatever issues they have with whatever transaction, but to also take crypto or blockchain or bitcoin, these complex technologies and kind of convey them in a way that was more palatable in more layman's terms for the average user. I got really good taking these complex topics and kind of summarising them into a way that most people can understand. And basically, my bosses at that time recognised that skill and they told me that I would be more suited towards a community development role. So, I switched over from customer service to basically a community development officer.
And, you know, this is pre-COVID, so, at the time as a community development officer, I was in charge of kind of organising events around crypto, handling meetups, kind of moderating panels and also going to different schools to educate people on the basics of blockchain technology. So I did that for a few years and, you know, eventually Mae contacted me to apply for this role in Coins.ph. And of course, I was very excited because I was still a Coins user. I was still very much a Coins user even then. And I decided to apply for the Crypto Marketing position there and everything worked out. And I'm currently working there now.
Mae: That's good to hear, Franco. Thank you so much for sharing your story. Very interesting. And I would say I'm very familiar with your story, not as familiar as now. So thanks for sharing. And I can relate to you because when I was asked to work on a Crypto Marketing Associate role, that's the first thing I did as well. I went to YouTube, activated my Twitter account just to really get to know the industry more so very interesting. And I can feel the passion also coming from you. So that's good. Now I want to understand. So to inspire our viewers and listeners as well, can you share some of your biggest personal and professional achievements so far at Coins.ph.
Franco: Well, I think one of the biggest achievements that I've had in Coins.ph is actually being able to kind of run the campaign for the release of new tokens. So as I mentioned earlier Coins.ph is a wallet but we also sell different kinds of cryptocurrencies. So initially we just started out by some bitcoin and we slowly expanded to other crypto, such as ethereum, XRP, and bitcoin cash. That last update to our wallet occurred as far back as 2018.
So, one of the main requests that Coins.ph users have been always asking is to release new tokens onto the app. And we've heard those requests. And basically when I came in, I was in charge of handling that entire campaign of launching the three latest tokens on Coins.ph.
So that would be USDC, Chainlink, and KNC. And it was just a career highlight for me because I personally am a huge fan of the Coins.ph app. I'm not just showing this, I genuinely use it daily just to check on my different cryptocurrencies. And also to the send money from back and forth to my friends and family. So the fact that I was basically using this app for the longest time, for my own personal use, it would be a part of my daily life and that I had a part to play in actually pushing it forward, introducing new features, new tokens. Yeah, that definitely was a career highlight for me.
‘Cause it was kind of like a surreal moment for me to actually have an impact on this app that I've been using for so long and see the features that we've been wanting to put that I've been working on - I'm helping to put actually there in the app. So in a way I've almost made my own stamp on the actual application itself.
Mae: Impressive, Franco. And I liked the fact that you're currently with Coins.ph, but you also believe in the product and the brand that you use it yourself and you encourage people to use it as well, so I liked that. So Franco, this is more of a curious question - can you tell us more about blockchain technology?
Franco: Sure, basically blockchain is a very wide topic and there are a lot of different facets to it. I'll try to explain it in my own way, but I always encourage people to kind of do your own research if possible. But to put it simply blockchain is a network of computers that reach agreement over a shared ledger. And when I talk about a ledger, it's basically the same thing that we kind of use for accounting.
So if you have any experience with accounting classes, you should be familiar with this idea, but basically a ledger is a record that tracks the movement of money coming in and out. So you can think of blockchain as kind of a new form - a new digital form of this ledger that has been used for centuries, whether that ledger is an actual physical recording on a book or whether it's a database on an Excel file. So blockchain is a new application for that.
And in order to give a better idea of how blockchain ledgers work, I usually compare blockchains to the typical like banking industry. For banks, they use something called a centralised ledger. And in this centralised ledger, basically every time the bank has money, the deposited, withdrawn or transferred within branches, the bank is going to record that in their own centralised ledger.
And the reason why I'm emphasising that this is centralised is because basically the bank owns this ledger. So, it's going to be the one source of all transactions that happened within the bank's network. So, they're the ones who maintain it, and they're the ones who are in charge of actually showing what transactions come in and what transactions come out.
So in contrast to blockchain, blockchain basically uses something called a shared ledger. And the reason why it's shared is because unlike a bank which stores the ledger in their own centralised computer. The copy of the of the blockchain ledger is shared through thousands of different computers all over the world.
So this is a kind of brand new innovation with ledger technology, because basically it gives power to the people and that anyone can participate in updating this ledger as long as they have access to a computer and an internet connection. And since there's no central administrator, the entries that happened onto this ledger are publicly accessible to anyone and viewable to anyone. So it kind of allows you to be more accountable.
And basically what this blockchain technology allows is many different applications. And one of those applications, one of the most known applications for blockchain technology is of course, bitcoin. And the reason why bitcoin has kind of grown in popularity is because for the first time ever we have basically a payment system native to the internet.
So the internet was an informational revolution where we basically democratised access to information for everyone. You can think of blockchain and bitcoin democratising value, the ability to transport and transmit value anywhere around the world using and utilising the internet without the need of any like major financial intermediary.
So yeah, bitcoin is one of those applications for blockchain technology. But that doesn't mean that's the only application. And that's where the blockchain industry comes in to find all sorts of different ways to implement this technology. Another example would be for supply chain, so you can use blockchain. You can use the ledger technology of blockchain to basically keep track of different goods coming in and out of the supply chain and making sure that each of these goods is tracked properly without anyone being able to tamper that record. Another application for this is also remittances. So, by being able to utilise a peer-to-peer network with no other financial intermediary, you can send value across the world for a fraction of the cost and also at a much faster speed as well without having to rely on like bigger remittance companies. You can just use the blockchain network to do the transfer of money for you.
Mae: Okay. Great. Thanks for explaining that. I'm sure it's something that most of the listeners and viewers are not familiar with, myself included. So, my next question Franco is, how do you see the Philippine market adapting to this technology. Do you think that the Philippine market is ready to embrace blockchain technology?
Franco: So, yeah, that's one of the cool things I think about blockchain technology in regards to the Philippines is that the Philippines is very much a pioneer in this space. As you know, like since we are a country of many different islands, what happens is that it becomes very hard to kind of transfer value from one place to another, especially when you're in the more rural parts of the Philippines.
So what blockchain technology does is basically bring the power of the banking system to anyone with a smartphone and an internet connection. And that's why Filipinos have been really receptive to this technology. I think I read on a recent survey that as much as 20% of Filipinos have kind of used their own crypto.
And I think that's one of the ways that we can be a leader in this space by being able to utilise this technology not only to invest in bitcoin, but use it as an actual network in enabling people from all over the country that don't normally have access to banking services, to being able to send money directly from their phone.
Cause one of the things that I think Filipinos are very good at is being able to be on their smartphone and use social media. So, it's basically being able to bring these financial applications to anyone on the smartphone, I think is going to enable a lot of opportunity not just for individuals but for businesses to utilise that technology as well.
Mae: Great thanks for answering that Franco. And my last question pertaining to this is how are organisations using it to grow their business? Any insights on that?
Franco: So, for Coins.ph in particular, we're of course utilising blockchain technology to facilitate of remittances. But you know, there are other organisations or companies that can use blockchain to basically track items on the supply chain. Since the blockchain is maintained by thousands of different computers all over the world, it's harder to tamper with and you can use that to track the supply chain of a particular good all the way from the factory until it's finally into the hands of the consumer.
Also, another way that organisations can use blockchain is to store data. Because at the end of the day, a ledger is just a way to store data. And by tapping into a publicly available blockchain, you can utilise that instead of keeping your information siloed into your own centralised system.
Mae: I didn't know that, that last part, so thanks for that. So that's good. I'm sure most of our listeners and viewers doesn't have an idea about blockchain technology. I think you just need to know the best explanation or description or definition that would help them understand it better.
So now that we kind of understand blockchain, now let's move on to traits or skills that one should have if they're interested to be part of the blockchain industry, what traits should they have or skills, competencies for them to be successful?
Franco: Okay. So, as I mentioned, this is a brand new field and a brand new industry. And blockchain technology I would say we're still very much like in the early 90s in terms of blockchain. So, I have compared it to the internet of the nineties basically. So, the opportunity and the potential for this technology is very high. And as a result, I think one of the things that you need to develop is adaptability. So, what I mean by that is your ability to acquire new information – your ability to stay up to date on current trends within blockchain technology and your ability to learn about all of these new developments that are happening because it's constantly changing. I think also you have to be an avid reader. One of the ways that I learned about blockchain is basically by reading all of these different books on the technology from authors like Andreas Antonopoulos and Saifedean Ammous. So you have to be willing to put in the work and actually digest this information from all different sources.
So if you have that hard skill in your arsenal, I would definitely suggest looking to blockchain because there are so many different opportunities for coders and programmers. And I think over the next several years, as blockchain continues to gain the mainstream adoption, the need for these hard skills will increase as well.
Mae: That's great. So, you talked about learning faster, being agile, reading books, the need to be an avid reader. Coding experience is also a plus. So take note all of our viewers and listeners. And maybe Franco, before we wrap things up, what would be your biggest advice to those that are aspiring to be part of this industry?
Franco: Okay. So, as I mentioned the blockchain industry is still very in the very early stages. And I think one of the great things about this technology is that so far, Filipinos have been very receptive to it. And the Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) which governs all cryptocurrency-related has been very progressive about its stance there as well. So, I think the Philippines is in a very good position to be a leader in this field. And I think one of the reasons why is basically, we are a nation of many islands. And because of that there's a lot of rural banks and banks that tend to live very far from one another.
So, there is really this need to create sort of an ecosystem wherein you rely less on the different banks out there and more on basically bringing the bank directly to your phone. I guess one of the pieces of advice I would give to someone is that make sure that you are genuinely interested in this technology and you are passionate about it. Because it is, as I mentioned, a new industry and like any new industry, there are roles that exists for it that exists with any other industry. So, the banking industry there's always need for marketers, there's always need for accountants. And same thing with companies that involve blockchain. So, as I mentioned earlier, we're still very much in the early 90s in terms of technology and there's a lot of room to grow. And I think the best way to start is to really do your own research. Go on YouTube, go on Twitter, go on Reddit.
Do what I did and really delve into that bitcoin/blockchain/cryptocurrency rabbit hole and just immerse yourself in it. And yeah, basically any skills that you've learned, whether through school or your past careers, you can apply that to this industry as well.
All it takes is a little bit of specialised knowledge on blockchain technology. And I think there are going to be so many more opportunities for you in this industry, especially as it becomes more mainstream and especially as more companies start to see the value of blockchain and crypto.
Mae: Okay. So in summary, if you want to be part of this industry, you have to like it, you really have to be passionate, you have to be patient about it. So thanks for that. Now Franco, I'm sure a lot of our listeners and viewers are interested to know, are there any available opportunities for them within the Coins.ph or within the industry? Would you be able to share?
Franco: Yeah. So, I mean speaking directly from Coins.ph, basically as I mentioned, there's so many different roles that blockchain kind of enables. And for Coins.ph in particular, we have openings for product managers, business development roles. Of course, if you're a programmer, feel free to apply to Coins.ph as well, because as I mentioned earlier, where we're always in demand for those kinds of hard skills. If you worked in operations as well, basically any role that any other company looks for, blockchain companies look for as well.
Mae: So that's good. A lot of interesting opportunities for all of you out there who's interested to join this industry. And hearing it from Franco, I think he shared a couple of tips - what skills will you be needing, his advice as well. Now, it's time to upskill yourselves and be ready for this industry that's going to get bigger in the years to come, I'm sure of that. So, okay great, once again thank you so much Franco for taking the time to do this with us. It was really a lovely session and we’ve gained many insights and takeaways from your sharing. I personally learned a lot, so I appreciate this. Thank you so much Franco.
Franco: Thank you Mae and thank you Robert Walters for inviting me today.
Mae: Thank you again Franco.
To our listeners and viewers, we hope you've gained new professional insights from today's discussion. May this information in our sharing help you clarify the next steps in your personal career journey. If you would like to have a further private consultation, do connect with me on LinkedIn or visit us at www.robertwalters.com.ph.
Thank you and stay safe.