UnionBank is readying itself for stiff competition in the digital banking scene, announcing the ramping up of its digital transformation scheme this 2021. 

The bank’s five-year strategy has been shortened to two years in anticipation of foreign-owned and local digital banks’ arrival in the Philippines, UnionBank President and CEO Edwin R. Bautista shared during the bank’s annual shareholders forum.

Besides this, Bautista also noted that the hastening of UnionBank’s digital transformation has something to do with the current situation, specifically the pandemic. He said more and more people are choosing to open digital bank accounts due to restrictions brought about by the coronavirus health crisis. 

“UnionBank is gearing up for the entry of more digital banks and the anticipated shift towards an open finance environment. With the accelerating shift of customer behavior towards digital – which we believe will stay for the long haul – UnionBank is going full throttle in its digital transformation strategy,” Bautista explained.

Although the focus for the company will be on the digital side, UnionBank Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer Jose Emmanuel U. Hilado informed that applying for a digital banking license from Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) is something they have yet to decide on. 

“We have not yet submitted an application, but we are keeping our options open. If we proceed with this it will be a digital mass market bank for financial inclusion,” he told Manila Bulletin. 

Hilado says they plan to expand the bank’s financial services to the unbanked sector by way of digital channels such as online payments, digital lending, and e-commerce. 

“Note however, that as of today, UnionBank is already operating like a digital bank. You can open an account using your phone without going to a branch. You can transfer money, deposit checks, buy or sell foreign exchange to name a few of the functionalities available through our app,” he explained further.

“These functionalities effectively solve the pain points that a typical digital bank aims to address,” Hilado emphasized. 

In his annual report, Bautista said UnionBank’s digital section is showing promise. He notes that the bank’s take-up has risen to 300 percent – with a user base already numbering 2.2 million.

Bautista says they don’t see any other path to go except for digital. He mentions that they’ll continue to improve services in the coming years by way of data science and artificial intelligence. 

“Indeed, there is no other way to do banking in this new normal than go digital. We will continue to use data science and artificial intelligence to churn out next best offers and develop alternative credit scoring models,” Bautista remarked.

UnionBank is not the only Philippine bank investing in digital transformation. Last week, BPI also announced its intent to transform its digital services through a strengthening of IT and cybersecurity

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Image credit: UnionBank’s Official Facebook Page