Union Bank of the Philippines (UnionBank) is poised to continue powering the future of banking despite an unprecedented disruption spawned by the COVID-19 public health crisis.
At its first-ever virtual Annual Stockholders’ Meeting held on May 22, 2020, UnionBank President and CEO Edwin Bautista said he is confident the bank can weather the immense challenges caused by the pandemic because of its strong balance sheet arising from an all-time high net income of P14 billion in 2019 and equally strong performance during the first quarter.
Simultaneously the bank is remarkably reaping the fruits of its digital investments.
“Due to the ECQ (enhanced community quarantine), most of our customers resorted to using our digital channels to continue banking with us. Because of this, we achieved record highs in the month of March in terms of digital account opening in our UnionBank Online app, as well as corporate enrollment into our platform, The Portal,” Bautista said.
Further, due to the bank’s digital capabilities, it was able to perform critical operations and support customers’ banking needs with 80-90% of UnionBankers effectively working from home throughout the ECQ and first weeks of MECQ, with the rest representing the Bank’s branch, and operations-support front-liners.
He noted that the COVID-19 outbreak will not stop but rather accelerate UnionBank’s digital transformation. “We have learned a lot from this situation, and so we aim to use them as we carry on with Phase 3 of our digital transformation strategy, which is the year of commercialization and monetization of the bank’s initiatives. Going forward, we believe that data analytics and AI will be critical cornerstone-technologies that will drive us to the next level of our digitization,” Bautista said, citing world-leading data scientist David Hardoon – who joined the bank in April – as one of the spearheads of this front.
The bank’s fintech subsidiary UBX is likewise significantly gaining traction in just over a year of operations, with three platform start-ups that include i2i which links rural banks to the country’s main financial network; digital payments and logistics platform BUX for e-commerce merchants; and online lending marketplace SeekCap – a partnership with Ping-An’s technology arm OneConnect.
UnionBank Chairman Justo Ortiz, for his part, highlighted the role that innovation and reinvention play in saving companies from extinction.
“As we navigate through the 4th Industrial Revolution, we are building our business model cognizant of certain megatrends, which our strategic scenario planning has identified as opportunities only if we ‘dare greatly’,” Ortiz said.
In his report to shareholders, Bautista said the COVID-19 crisis has shown that with digital capabilities, a bank can be run from home, that businesses will adjust to a cashless environment, and that it is not necessary to go to a branch to perform banking needs.
“And should this digital future manifest immediately, we assure the shareholders that your bank is future-ready – today!” Bautista said.