Union Bank of the Philippines (UnionBank) has always been quick to embrace innovation. Throughout its existence it has been leveraging technology and innovation in making strides to empower its customers. It was the first bank among its peers to launch a website, pioneer online banking and launch the country’s first electronic savings account.
Since 2016, the bank has been on a journey of digital transformation. During this time it has launched Asia’s first “selfie banking” system, the first fully digital bank branch and the first chatbot. It has also initiated partnerships with fintechs and embraced the use of blockchain technology.
UnionBank’s multi-awarded EON prepaid debit card allows you to log into your account by taking a selfie with your smartphone. It makes use of state-of-the-art facial recognition technology – the same technology being used by the US and other countries for border control, immigration and securing critical infrastructure. It eliminates the need to memorise passwords while offering more security with the facial recognition feature.
In November 2017, UnionBank launched the first fully digital branch in the country. Located on Ayala Avenue in Makati City, The ARK, as the branch is known, utilises digital technology to augment actual banking experience. This paperless branch has self-service kiosks, virtual reality boxes, refreshments and internet connection, enabling customers to personally experience the convenience of digital banking.
Meanwhile, aiming to deliver instant 24/7 customer service to its customers, in April 2017 UnionBank introduced the first banking chatbot in the Philippines, which takes customer enquiries and handles general information requests such as location of nearest automated teller machines or foreign currency exchange rates.
Towards the end of 2017, the bank also launched the new UnionBank Online, which aims to deliver an exceptional and seamless customer experience. It allows customers to bank continuously from their home or office regardless of the gadget being used. Through this app, signing up takes minutes rather than days, and customers can use any of their UnionBank accounts to sign up, without the need to visit a branch or ATM. Customers can likewise access and manage their accounts in one place – from their deposits and credit cards to their loans and investments. They can also transfer funds, pay bills, schedule transactions in advance and purchase air-time load.
According to UnionBank President and CEO Edwin R. Bautista, who has led UnionBank through its digital transformation, all these efforts are geared toward addressing common problems in banking. He has pledged to continue to pioneer products, services and platforms to satisfy the diverse and changing needs of the bank’s customers.
Early on in his presidency, Mr Bautista shared how highly digitised UnionBank is in each of its products including credit cards: “The only thing that is not automated is the physical handling of cash, but even that we want to move to deposit-taking machines,” he said.
Mr Bautista also highlighted how one of the bank’s immediate goals is to achieve a seamless operation across all points of its service provision, so that customers can do everything on the phone: “We are not creating new branches, unless we are building branches on the phones.”
Equally dedicated to the vision of reshaping the bank into a “technology company with banking utilities” is Chairman Justo A. Ortiz, who believes that this is the most revolutionary and gigantic step that the bank has taken towards enabling its customers via digital transformation.
Coupled with Mr Bautista’s mission to “transform the bank for the digital economy,” UnionBank is ahead of the pack as a leader in “smart banking”, particularly in areas of innovation, customer satisfaction and value for money through the creative application
Meanwhile, Mr Bautista stressed that the bank is embracing disruption and propagates a culture of experimentation. Its agility and speed in using technology to improve its way of conducting business has enabled its successful digital transformation, not just in terms of structure, but the digitisation of the organisation as a whole.
It’s due to this and more that UnionBank has been a consistent award winner throughout the years across many key areas of banking and finance. These include: “Best Universal Bank 2017” by London-based CFI.co; “Digital Bank of the Year Philippines” at The Asset Triple A Awards 2017; “Best Digital Bank Philippines” at the Asiamoney Banking Awards 2017; “Gold Banking Employer of the Year” at The Stevie for Great Employers Awards 2017; “Best HR System Project”, “Best Mobile Banking Project” and “Credit Card Product of the Year” at The Asian Banker Philippine Country Awards 2017; “Domestic Retail Bank of the Year – Philippines”; and the “Debit Card Initiative of the Year” for 2017 from Asian Banking and Finance.
Its recent selection as the “Most Innovative Bank of the Year – 2018” by this magazine further accelerates UnionBank’s digital transformation journey.
“We are very honoured to receive this prestigious award. This certainly inspires us to further accelerate our digital transformation and thus enable inclusive prosperity, which is the same goal of our government and our regulator, while ‘leaving no one behind’ – which is our commitment to all our stakeholders,” Mr Bautista said.
From the onset of his presidency, Mr Bautista vowed to properly equip his team with new skills so they can move seamlessly from jobs that are disappearing into the new ones emerging.
UnionBank has been consistently cited for taking care of its employees. In 2016, it was awarded the “Best Company to Work For” at the Asia Corporate Excellence and Sustainability (ACES) Awards.
Mr Bautista believes that banking “is a people business” and an engaged employee, an engaged workforce delivering great service translates into an engaged and loyal customer group.