The head of UnionBank of the Philippines tells Euromoney that COVID-19 will spell the end of cash and boost the prospects of banks that offer customers the best digital banking services.
UnionBank has been investing heavily in digital for years. When Euromoney talks to Edwin Bautista, President and Chief Executive of UnionBank of the Philippines — the country’s ninth-largest domestic lender by asset but by far its most digitally advanced— talks quickly turn to speed off the blocks.
“We began monitoring COVID-19 starting in January when the epicenter was then in Wuhan,” he says. “As a result, we activated our business continuity plan.” It opened several offsite “command-and-control systems for our digital systems” and ordered all non-frontline staff to work from home. This was achieved, he adds: “Even before the enhanced quarantine was imposed by the Philippine government.”
Bautista notes that 95% of branches remain open, despite 75% of staff working remotely. “The preparations have been effective thus far and enabled me, my Chief Technology Officer, Henry Aguda, and our management committee to pretty much run the bank at this very challenging time away from our desk.”
Coronavirus has only accelerated this online push. Bautista says the COVID-19 outbreak has accelerated plans to make the bank “more agile” and “disruption proof”.
“Certainly, this pandemic amplifies the need for all the banks to go digital now,” Bautista said. It has become obvious that bricks and mortar have their limitations, especially when staff is struggling to get to work. “In terms of consumer behavior, COVID-19 has forced more Filipinos to do more online banking,” he adds.