ABC Story: Tech Up Pilipinas! Leveraging UnionBank’s Digital Transformation for social good
It was a challenging year due to COVID-19, yet UnionBank emerged resilient with above-industry profitability and a strong balance sheet. With the pandemic fast-tracking the digital tipping point, we will continue to accelerate our digital strategy and initiatives. We remain committed in promoting digital transformation to our customers and partners, in line with our mission to Tech Up Pilipinas!Edwin R. Bautista President and CEO, UnionBank
Weak consumer and investor sentiment, high unemployment rate, and a slowdown in business activity are among the adverse economic effects of the COVID-19 crisis. These factors led to dampened demand for credit and the rise of non-performing loans in the banking industry.
As of end-2020, the Philippine banking industry registered lackluster asset growth of 6% year on- year (YoY), while total loans declined by 1%. The industry’s net income also declined by 33%, mainly due to the 4.2 times increase in credit reserves set aside by most banks as loan quality deteriorated similar to the 2008 Global Financial Crisis.
In response to the effects of the pandemic, UnionBank also increased loan loss reserves by 4.5 times to PHP8.4 billion. But despite the unusually high provisions, the Bank recorded a net income of PHP11.6 billion and posted a return on equity of 11.5%, higher than the industry’s 6.6%.
UnionBank’s topline revenues remained strong. Net revenues were at an all-time high at PHP42.1 billion. Net interest income increased by 29% to PHP28.7 billion as margins increased by 76 basis points (bps) to 4.7%. Our higher margins were due to: the record-high current account and savings account (CASA) deposit growth of 24% to PHP258.7 billion; continued expansion of high yielding consumer, SME, and commercial loans; and reduced funding cost amid the low-interest rate environment in 2020. Strong trading gains amounting to PHP8.9 billion also gave topline revenues a boost.
Metrics That Matter
- Acquired more than 432,000 new customers via the digital account opening functionality in UnionBank Online App in 2020 alone
- Enhanced UnionBank Online App features to include online check deposit, send money to remittance centers, real-time redemption of credit card rewards, subscription to/redemption of UITFs, soft launch of the quick loan salary via the app, and foreign exchange
- Launched SME Business Banking App with features including digital account opening for savings and checking account, account viewing, fund transfers, mobile check deposit, and bills payment
- Developed the refreshed sustainability roadmap and transition plan complying ahead of the requirement of BSP Circluar 1085
- Launched the sustainable finance framework that makes UnionBank ready to pursue ESG (environmental, social, and governance) bonds ahead of BSP’s 2023 target
- Enhanced features of The Portal to include mobile check deposit and checkwriter services
- Introduced cash deposit capability via ECPay partners’ (7-11, LCC, RD Pawnshop, Tambunting, Czarina Foreign Exchange, etc.) over 11,000 outlets nationwide
- Launched the Lazada e-commerce credit and debit card enabling customers to shop in the Lazada marketplace with exclusive discounts and promos while earning points
- Launched Bonds.ph, Asia’s first app-based blockchain-enabled distribution of retail treasury bonds
- Supported DSWD in the distribution of cash assistance to beneficiaries and constituents
- Successfully completed the proof of concept for the issuance of retail treasury bonds on a digital platform leveraging on blockchain technology for bond tokenization, in partnership with SC Ventures
- Awarded ‘2nd Most Helpful Bank in Asia Pacific’ during COVID-19 by BankQuality.com; ‘Bank of the Year 2020’ by The Banker; and Digital Bank of the Year 2021’ by The Asset Triple A for the fourth year in a row
City Savings Bank, Inc.
- Launched Loan Ranger Mobile, its own mobile banking application
- Rolled out Visa debit card for enhanced account functionality
- Grew motorcycle dealership partner network to 1,153 locations nationwide
- Expanded salary loans partner network to 363 non-DepEd accredited institutions
- Launched the Project Agile learning series on online teaching Awarded ‘Best Employer Brand – Philippines 2020’ by the Employer Branding Institute – India
- Recognized as the Philippines’ ‘Fastest Growing Savings Bank’ for 2019 at the Global Business Outlook Awards
- Added eight international and domestic remittance partners to Petnet’s retail network, namely: Transfast, iRemit, Cebuana Lhuillier, Metrobank, BPI, LANDBANK, USSC Super Padala, and Smart Padala
- Petnet continued to forge partnerships with fintech players such as Stellar & Chynge to utilize counters and our digital platforms to reach more and offer more services
- Petnet launched new branch services which include: Dengue Protect Plus microinsurance, Pera Payapa Micromemorial insurance, Paymaya Cash In, and GCash Cash Out
- Awarded ‘Fastest Growing Fintech Company in Southeast Asia 2020’ by Global Brands Magazine
- Signed up more than 95,000 MSMEs in BUX, a payment gateway for E-Commerce merchants
- Grew BUX’s over-the-counter payments to 14 including 7-11, DA5, Posible, Pay&Go, etc. with more than 50,000 outlets nationwide
- Introduced BUX E-Money Account enabling MSMEs to perform online payments and fund transfers
- Recorded close to 30,000 sign ups in Sentro, a free online shop builder with a pre-integrated payment gateway (BUX) and logistics services
- Expanded the i2i platform member network with 181 financial institutions signed up
- Launched i2i’s Mobile ATM service, in partnership with Fexco, and now has 25 partners consisting of merchants and rural banks, bringing the basic ATM services such as cash withdrawal and balance inquiry to various communities
- Registered more than 23,000 signups in online lending marketplace, SeekCap
- Maintain a strong balance sheet with proactive risk management procedures and effective collection and recovery efforts
- Ramp up retail digital customer acquisition and engagement by leveraging on data science for targeted marketing
- Boost retail and MSME loan portfolio with the help of digital alternative credit scoring models and AI-assisted collections engine
- Continue to diversify CitySavings’ loan portfolio by growing its motorcycle, pension, and other salary loan products (LGUs, private companies, etc.)
- Implement DevSecOps, complementary to agile ways of working, to speed up testing and deployment of products and applications
Tech Up Pilipinas! Leveraging Unionbank’s Digital Transformation for social good
The intersection of newer financial tools and technology is creating an enormous impact that can help unleash a sustainable development revolution. Among the country’s pioneers in banking innovation is UnionBank and we are stepping up our efforts for Tech Up Pilipinas.
Tech Up Pilipinas is the natural result of the bank’s digital transformation over the years. From a “brick-and-mortar” model, we are moving into the “tech-firm-with-banking capabilities” model, which is the building block of our own brand of sustainability. It is driven by investments and partnerships that enable and empower people to co-create innovations for a better world.
Financial technology for Filipinos
Pandemic or not, we have always envisioned a bank that will allow more Filipinos, especially the unbanked and marginalized, to adopt digital banking services and enable them to become active partners of our Tech Up Pilipinas mission.
Launching UBX as our tech arm is just the beginning. We are activating units that are geared towards financial inclusion and social empowerment. Our SME business banking unit has intensified the campaign to onboard more Filipino entrepreneurs into the GlobalLinker. This is a digital platform designed for the 350,000 members globally so they are connected and provided with the right knowledge and tools to accelerate the growth of their businesses. One such tool is the recently launched SME Business Banking App, focused on providing online banking services and marketplace solutions with speed, ease, and trustworthiness as our key competitive advantage.
Moreover, to help MSMEs convert to the online platform, UBX offers the payment gateway BUX and digital shop builder Sentro. BUX can be integrated into an online seller’s platform while Sentro helps entrepreneurs set their online shops. Sentro has built-in protections for both the sellers and buyers, as well as logistics services. There are more than 95,000 users of BUX and close to 30,000 sign-ups for Sentro.
Meanwhile, SeekCap, the Philippines’ first same-day approval lending marketplace, supports MSMEs by providing them with sources of credit without having to fill in lengthy loan applications. To date, we have recorded more than 23,000 sign-ups and disbursed loans over PHP100 million.
Redefining sustainability, the UnionBank way
We have set in place UnionBank’s sustainable finance framework in order to facilitate issuances of green bonds, social bonds, and even tech bonds. In line with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, we recognize that our main contribution to sustainable development and social good is in ensuring that financial capital is invested in responsible organizations and customers whose businesses aim to improve quality of life and the planet. We believe that by supporting the development of people’s digital and innovation capabilities, we can collectively improve products and services that will have less toll on our planet.
In UnionBank’s case, we envision our sustainable financing program to enable our clients and partners to co-design with us innovative solutions and technology that create better products and services while contributing to sustainability targets. These targets include socioeconomic advancement and empowerment, access to essential services, employment generation, renewable energy, energy efficiency, and pollution prevention technology, among others.
We already have products and platforms in place that promote socio economic advancement and empowerment as evidenced by UBX and its various financially-inclusive initiatives developed in just a year. Meanwhile, our mass market arm and subsidiary CitySavings Bank is also in a sweet spot to carry out sustainable financing activities as its portfolio is aligned to social sustainability.
Our corporate social responsibility (CSR) is serving as an incubator of ideas with a pointed focus towards sustainability. Through this new kind of CSR, we have the ability to create more, reach more, and make a bigger impact by doing what we do best – innovate and accelerate.
For instance, one of our CSR initiatives led to the nationwide campaign to build the digital skills of 800,000 public school teachers through the timely and innovative idea of our employee volunteers to design on-demand, easy-to-use, and engaging learning modules. This has been adopted by the national government and is being implemented by the Department of Education across the country.
The ABC story goes on
With the same spirit of Ubuntu – that sense of being part of a community – and a compassion for others in need, we at UnionBank can leverage our DNA of innovation and digital tools to make a difference. Whether using digital platforms like Sentro and Bux to build online presence, SeekCap to raise funds, or mobile apps like Bonds.ph, technology can be used by a bank to truly create social good. Our goal is to fully align our digital transformation strategy with sustainable value creation. This is an opportunity for us to join the very clear call of advancing business and communities and we will do this by co-creating innovations for a better world.