GoTyme's Raymund Villanueva on Building Buzz for Better, Beautiful Banking

This Chief Marketing Officer finds fulfillment in unlocking Filipinos' financial potential and making them "fall in love" with banking

“Let’s rock this!” says Francis “Raymund” S. Villanueva, Chief Marketing Officer of GoTyme Bank, as we settle into our seats for his interview.

There’s a good reason Raymund is pumped: In just a little over 18 months since its launch in October 2022, GoTyme Bank has already eclipsed the 3-million customer mark, greatly exceeding expectations.

Deep in the heart of GoTyme Bank's strategy is a commitment to exceptional customer experience: “Banking that makes you smile. Banking that makes you fall in love with the experience,” says Raymund.

Having led the bank’s go-to-market attack from the start, Raymund and his team can claim a big part of this success. Needless to say, his contributions have not gone unnoticed. During our meeting, Raymund reveals more good news: he has just been appointed as the Global Marketing Lead for the Tyme Group, one of the main investors of GoTyme Bank. “I’m very proud that the marketing team in the Philippines has performed quite well, that we are now recognized by the Tyme Group as someone that can contribute to the other regions,” says Raymund.

Like Father, Like Son

Raymund's foray into the world of business and marketing was significantly influenced by his upbringing. His father, Anicio “Nicky” Villanueva, a longtime executive at Robinsons Land Corporation, the real estate arm of the Gokongwei Group, played a pivotal role in shaping Raymund's values and career aspirations.

Growing up, he and his two brothers would spend Fridays after school either at the RLC head office in Ortigas or at the adjoining Robinsons Galleria mall. “I saw how my dad, who spent 20-plus years in the Gokongwei Group, was valued for his contributions and in turn was able to provide the family with a comfortable life. The work of my dad, along with my mom, created the opportunity for me to do something great.” Raymund adds, “My dad was given the chance to build the first malls that now became the powerhouse Robinsons Malls in the Philippines. I am hoping to do the same with banking.”

The early exposure to his dad’s work also allowed Raymund to learn about the Gokongwei Group’s values, ethics, and financial prudence. Raymund recalls that one of the big lessons he learned from observing his dad was “making sure that you’re spending your money, energy, and time towards the right things.” He adds, “The best advice he told me was make sure you pay for things that provide value, and not just based on the price tag. Example: a really good meal can come from a convenience store. He always brings up how when he went with Robina Y. Gokongwei on international business trips and they would sometimes eat in a convenience store for lunch.” 

These foundational values and lessons were carried with him throughout his education and still-unfolding career.

At the Ateneo de Manila University, Raymund obtained a degree in Management Engineering, a field that typically leads to careers in investment banking and financial modeling. However, his passion for advertising and marketing steered him in a different direction. I always liked the advertising field, he says with a smile. I actually had to take additional courses to get really good at marketing, or at least decent in marketing.

GoTyme Bank's aim is to unlock Filipinos’ financial potential with the convenience and security of digital banking, supported by best-in-class personal customer service available 24/7.

To hone his skills, Raymund completed an MBA at the University of San Francisco, focusing on brand building, communication, and marketing. His academic journey coincided with the rise of science-based marketing, which leverages data analytics for strategic decision-making. I think I got in at the right time, he reflects. Using data to make decisions for marketing really came to life when I was in the U.S., and I think the training and management engineering played dividends in being able to have my skill set, which is science-based, play a key role in marketing.”

Raymund's early career in the United States saw him working with Fortune 500 companies such as the Apollo Group, Yahoo!, and Gap, Inc. Despite having a promising career trajectory, he yearned for work with a deeper purpose. I was looking for something that had a little bit more meaning. And I did find it actually in the Philippines, he says.

In 2013, Raymund made the bold move to return to the Philippines, leaving behind a promising career in the U.S. I packed my bags, sold my house and my car, and just moved back with no job prospects. It was a big leap, he admits.

Realizing now that this could have seemed foolish at the time, Raymund lets out a big laugh. “That’s what happens when you’re young!” Fortunately, things worked out. In a few months, he landed a job at Paymaya (now known as Maya), where he nurtured his advocacy for financial inclusion.

It’s a journey that continues now at GoTyme Bank, which he joined in November 2021. “For me, I was looking for meaningful work. That’s the key word. Everything that we do here has real-life impact right away. I'm not going to disparage my old company, but there, I was there to sell more clothes online, support The Gap and all that. But here, it's the products that we're able to build, bringing beautiful banking to everybody. It’s a lot more meaningful work. And I think that's what the team, myself and the rest of the people here at GoTyme Bank, really believe in.”

GoTyme Bank: Unlocking Filipinos' Financial Potential

GoTyme Bank is the groundbreaking financial institution formed through a partnership between the Gokongwei Group and Tyme, a multi-country digital banking group. Its aim is “to unlock Filipinos’ financial potential with the convenience and security of digital banking, supported by best-in-class personal customer service available 24/7.”

As CMO, Raymund played a crucial role in launching the brand and quickly positioning it as a significant player in the Philippine banking sector. Marketing for me is not just about the ads that you see but primarily making sure that we're able to launch the brand correctly and approach the market the right way, he says of GoTyme’s initial marketing blitz.

Sharing some recently obtained data, he proudly reveals that GoTyme is already among the top apps in terms of monthly app downloads, active Visa card accounts, monthly app users, and Instapay transaction volume, outclassing many long-established banking and finance behemoths in these metrics. 

In the ultra-competitive banking landscape of the Philippines, GoTyme Bank established itself through its commitment to safety, innovation, and delivering customer-centric experiences.

One of its key strategies is the use of the phygital" model, which combines physical and digital banking experiences. Raymund's experience with PayMaya, a purely digital platform, taught him the importance of having a physical presence in the Philippine market. In a country like the Philippines, if you want to succeed, [a 100% digital approach] does not work like in the U.S.," he notes. Allowing your products to have a physical manifestation, such as our kiosks in Robinsons Supermarkets, The Marketplace, and Handyman, builds trust among customers."

Everything that we do at GoTyme Bank has real-life impact right away the products that we're able to build, bringing beautiful banking to everybody. That's what the team, myself and the rest of the people here at GoTyme Bank, really believe in.

Another factor contributing to GoTyme Bank's success is the promise of safety, due to its modern technology stack. Raymund confidently states, What that means is everything that we're using right now  in terms of security, safety, fraud tools  is state of the art." The bank's technology infrastructure is designed to ensure scalability, security, and efficiency, which are critical for maintaining customer trust and safeguarding all financial transactions.

To further shore up consumer confidence in GoTyme, Raymund states that it is also regulated by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and, just like with traditional banks, customer deposits (up to Php500,000) are insured by the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation (PDIC).

Another thing worth mentioning: GoTyme Bank is partly owned by companies of the Gokongwei Group, chief among them JG Summit and Robinsons Retail Holdings, Inc. This backing not only provides financial stability but also enhances customer trust through association with a reputable name. Raymund attributes a significant part of the bank's rapid growth to this support, noting, The number one thing that allowed us to grow this quickly, this good, was we were backed by the Gokongwei Group.

Deep in the heart of GoTyme Bank's strategy is a commitment to exceptional customer experience. Raymund emphasizes the importance of making banking simple and enjoyable. Banking that makes you smile. Banking that makes you fall in love with the experience, is how he explains it. This philosophy is evident in the bank's approach to user experience and customer service, which Raymund describes as over-designing our errors to ensure that there’s a very slim or next to impossible chance that a customer will use the app and not get what they need.

And just in case that happens, the next phase of customer interaction has been carefully thought of as well. “When they call our customer service, within a minute somebody will pick up, and it's a human. It's not a chatbot,” says Raymund. “I think having that philosophy of over-designing your errors, focusing on making that person smile, it goes beyond just saying that we have a good user experience. That is what our brand building is all about.”

Innovation in Marketing and Brand Initiatives

Through Raymund's team, GoTyme Bank has launched several successful campaigns. The introduction of Roboto, a character representing the bank's technology driven, but human-centric approach, has been particularly well-received. Roboto shows that a bank that is digital-led should have a very human approach, Raymund explains. Our bank ambassadors teach everyone how to maximize their account, and our human-led customer service ensures that when you call, you're talking to someone who understands and empathizes with you.

If there’s one piece of advice Raymund wants to share with other marketers, it’s that they “should market things that come from truth because it's very easy to get authenticity wrong. Customers right now are well-researched, so you can no longer do a TVC and confuse them. For me, it has to be from a nugget of truth that you then tell the world about.”

That’s how the campaign for GoTyme Bank’s Visa card developed. “We learned from our customers that it is one of the best cards for international travel. Best forex rates, lower fees, you don't need to call, it always works. You can withdraw for free abroad and all that. So, that became our campaign: #ReadyJetsetGoTyme!”

Our bank ambassadors teach everyone how to maximize their account, and our human-led customer service ensures that when you call, you're talking to someone who understands and empathizes with you. 

Another critical component is the effective use of data and technology. Our platforms, being as advanced as they are, allow our data to flow quite freely, shares Raymund. Making data usable at scale is the biggest unlock. It creates automated experiences for customers that are personalized and timely.”

To illustrate this point, a real-world scenario is provided: “If somebody forgets to cash in or deposit money in their account and their monthly Netflix transaction's about to go in, we might send a message saying something like, ‘Hi, your Netflix transaction's about to go live,’ which reminds them that they should probably deposit some money because they are about to be charged. So, simple things like that, small reminders, but you do it at scale for all three million customers. That's really where the magic happens.”

Like many financial institutions, GoTyme Bank's customer base spans various demographics, but its strongest advocates are the Zillennials, that niche between Millennials and Gen Z. They are so receptive to new products and services, Raymund explains. They grew up with digital but also understand the importance of having a real bank account, not just an e-wallet.

Being part of the Millennial demographic (“Pasang awang millennial, but I’ll claim it!,” he jokes), Raymund's approach to leadership and innovation is shaped by his generational perspective. He emphasizes the importance of understanding and appreciating trends while harnessing young talent within the organization. Raymund states, The best ideas should not come from the highest title role. The best ideas come from the best ideas.” This belief in empowering younger employees to share their ideas has fostered a culture of innovation and inclusivity at the bank.  

On what drives him as a marketing professional, Raymund shares that he’s fueled by a desire to highlight Filipino talent on a global stage. With the impending arrival of the GoTyme brand in other regional markets, it’s an opportunity, Raymund says, to show the Philippines has “the best young talents in terms of advertising and marketing.”

Looking ahead, Raymund and his team have ambitious goals for GoTyme Bank. Asked about where he sees the future of digital banking heading, he emphatically says that the question should just be “Where is banking going?” He explains, “I firmly believe that in the eyes of the customer, there's no such difference between a traditional bank and digital bank, because traditional banks also have a very good digital approach and digital banks can also offer what traditional banks have. At the end of the day, it's a bank account.

“Now, does this bank account provide value to your life? I'm very excited that in the next couple of years, the features and products that will come out of GoTyme will really complete all the things that you would expect from a bank.”

In a country like the Philippines, a 100% digital approach does not work like in the U.S. Allowing your products to have a physical manifestation, such as our kiosks in Robinsons Supermarkets, The Marketplace, and Handyman, builds trust among customers.

From starting with the basics, such as its savings account and debit card offerings, GoTyme is forging ahead with a more diversified set of financial products. This year it has launched a US time deposit account (“You just need one dollar to start. That’s it!”) soon to be followed by other major currencies, a bank statement and bank certificate service, expanded deposit and withdrawal networks, scan to pay/QR payment features, and enticing Go Rewards Points bonuses, among many other exciting developments.

With the recent acquisition of SAVii, the Philippines’ largest fintech salary lender, by GoTyme’s shareholders, the bank can now provide Filipino companies with the best payroll-enabled suite of financial products as well as an earned wage access (EWA) feature to employees of selected companies.

Though Raymund is one of the top guns at GoTyme, even he gets excited when he tries these products out for himself. When he visited a GoTyme kiosk to get his Visa card, he had his stopwatch ready. “Three minutes and 46 seconds to the dot of creating an account and actually getting a card in a kiosk. That experience for me was like, ‘Oooooh, wow! Once a person experiences this, it does make you smile, it does make you go ‘Wow!’”

Another eye-opener was being able to “bank where you shop,” being able to withdraw cash at any Robinsons Supermarket counter. “Not a lot of people know this yet. I did it myself, and it's a shocking experience. The cashier is the one giving you money. You don't see that happening very often!”

As competition in the financial sector heats up, Raymund is ready to take GoTyme Bank to the next level. “It will get exciting because more and more people, more and more companies, more and more banks will get their act together. And for us, the goal is to make sure that banking remains simple and beautiful to our customers and that it provides value to everybody as well.  

“Sometimes people think that you should just follow market research and you'll find the answer. Here in GoTyme Bank, we're a bit different. We try to create things that the customer may not even know they want yet. Research is only research because it tells you where you are right now, it doesn't tell you where you should be going. So, there's a bit of a leap of faith as well.”

Driven by the typical Gokongwei Group traits of innovation and customer-centricity, Raymund, his team, and the entire GoTyme Bank organization are paving a bold way forward, inching each day a little bit closer toward unlocking the financial potential of all Filipinos. — Pierre A. Calasanz

For more information on GoTyme Bank, visit Download the award-winning GoTyme Bank app on Google Play.