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TANGGapp’s Rebecca Kersch and Rocco Puno Make Fintech Accessible to the Unbanked

TANGGapp Chief Executive Officer Rebecca Kersch and Chief Revenue Officer Rocco Lopez Puno talk about how the unbanked majority of Filipinos can now have financial inclusion, all with the ease of a single text

 Rebecca Kersch and Rocco Lopez Puno of TANGGapp
Rebecca Kersch and Rocco Lopez Puno of TANGGapp


When the topic of fintech (financial technology) comes up, the usual words that get bandied about are blockchain, digital assets, distributed ledger, ether, DeFi, peer to peer, or private key. But when in conversation with Rebecca Kersch and Rocco Lopez Puno of the maverick money sending app TANGGapp, none of those cold, tech words enter the convo. Instead, the Harvard Kennedy School graduates talk more about family, service, and fulfilling a legacy.  


“My lolo is from Albay,” says Rebecca, who is Dutch-Indonesian on her dad’s side and Filipino-American on her mom’s side. “He sold our ancestral home to a school, and their family remained active in the running of the school.  They also started a feeding program in the area. I have said in many interviews that the inspiration for TANGGapp is my Tita Baby, who was an overseas Filipino worker for many years. And because she was paying from 8-12% to the remittance firm, out of her twelve months of work, as much as a whole month’s salary would go to the remittance fee. I really wanted to create an app that would make sending money as easy as sending a text.”


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Rebecca Kersch and her Tita Baby, who served as the inspiration behind TANGGapp
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Rocco also came from a family that emphasized service and patriotism. “After Harvard, I knew that I wanted to work in a big tech firm. But while I was at Meta, I really just felt as if I was a cog in a machine. I grew up in a family that was in media, energy, all businesses that were in service of the Filipino. When I started in TANGGapp and knew that we could serve so many unbanked Filipinos, I knew I found it.”


When asked if they had any advice for young people who also wanted to work in fintech, their advice is simple and practical. “Think more about the problem you want to solve. Don't deviate from that,” Rebecca says. “In the end, tech is supposed to make life easier,” Rocco sums up.


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Starting small

One of TANGGapp’s defining features is that you can send amounts as small as USD$10.00. “We really see the app as being part of your daily life, relational rather than transactional,” Rebecca once said in a past interview for ANC.  “So for example, it’s your cousin’s birthday and you want to send money so they can buy a cake for the celebration, you can send that money and they will get it instantly.” 


She says with great empathy and insight, “For many of our users, an amount like Php500 can make such a difference in their daily lives but in the past, they had to save up a lot before they could send money. Now they can send in smaller amounts, but make up for it by sending as much as three to five times a week.”


Rebecca also proudly adds, “With the traditional remittance firms, they charge according to the amounts. We don’t do that, we just have a uniform charge for all transactions. While what we do want to do is make sending money simple, it wasn’t actually simple to do that. We have a fantastic technical team who really made it possible to do that.”


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Rocco adds, “When it comes to (online) security, I think it can be compared to your house. If you put it too many bars on the windows, too many locks on the doors, it also makes it hard to enter the house at all. So of course, we want to make the app safe, but we also don’t want to have too many steps, because that would take away from the simplicity of the app.”


Part of the genius of the app also lies in its name. “It started with TANGG, which means Text and Go Global.  Funnily enough, when we were first testing the name, a lot of people brought up the fruit juice! And since it was part of their happy childhood memories , that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. And of course , since it’s an app, we just added it.”


Before the app was named TANGGapp, it used to be TANGapp, with TANG standing for Transact and Go. The acronym also means “touch” (tange) in Latin. And TANG app also sounds like “tanggap,” a Filipino word which means to receive, but it can also mean to accept. The TANGGapp team said, “To us, accepting something from someone implies trust between both parties. With our focus on security and safety, we’ve built TANGGapp to be a product you can trust.” With the slight name change, TANGGapp raises the Philippine flag, priding itself in being the first and only Filipina-founded mobile remittance app and embracing their global reach. 




It’s a small world

As a business that started in the pandemic, TANGGapp was purely remote, and they didn’t have physical offices.  “This meant that we had to have a team of self-starters, people who can work on their own initiative since there’s no one physically looking over their shoulder,” Rocco reveals. “I was attracted to the team because it was agile, small and enterprising.”


Rebecca agrees wholeheartedly. “And when Rocco joined, it felt as if he had been part of the team from the very beginning. I felt very fortunate and privileged when he came on board.” The team started offering remittances from the US  to the Philippines, but discovered a demand for money to flow from the Philippines to the US. 


“You have parents who have kids studying in the States, and they want an easy way to send money to them.  Or you have relatives who have been supported by relatives in the States and now they want to be the ones to help their families.  For example, we have a user who is now a head nurse here in the Philippines, and she wants to help out her relatives who had  been paying her tuition.”


The TANGapp members gathered for their first full team meet-up in Manila
The TANGapp members gathered for their first full team meet-up in Manila.


Rocco is excited about their push to the Middle East. “This year, we should be able to open the exchange of remittances from Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Eventually, we do want to serve all the large communities of Filipinos abroad.” 


As Filipinos abroad themselves, I was curious to know, what part of them remained absolutely and unmistakably  Filipino. They both break into wide smiles when they answer.   


Rebecca confesses, “I have totally become like my titas who are always worried that there won’t be enough food! And whether it’s a meeting or an evening at home, I am always telling people to eat more! I have become all about the over feeding!”


Rocco adds, “It’s all about the humor for me. That very Pinoy, corny humor!” 


 You can take the Pinoys out of the Philippines but they will always be Pinoy at heart. And that is the core of what drives TANGGapp.


Photos courtesy of TANGGapp