The banking trailblazer opened its UnionBank Innovation Campus in Laguna that will house the bank’s institutes on data science and artificial intelligence, blockchain, and the Asian Institute of Digital Transformation. It will also be home to its digital banking entity, UnionDigital Bank.
“The track record of UnionBank in creating opportunities through innovation and digital solutions in the banking sector is uncontested,” President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., who led the inauguration of Aboitiz-led Union Bank of the Philippines’ (UnionBank) Innovation Campus, said on Sept. 9. He added that the Innovation Campus will “intensify our collective efforts to bring our banking and information and communications technology (ICT) industries into the future.”
The UnionBank Innovation Campus is the first of its kind in the industry, a hub for research and development geared towards beefing up its digital innovation capabilities. Other than serving as the headquarters of the trailblazer’s digital banking entity UnionDigital Bank, the five-story building located in a one-hectare real property development in San Pedro, Laguna, is also home to various UnionBank centers of innovation. These include the first-ever Asian Institute of Digital Transformation and institutes on data science and artificial intelligence, as well as blockchain.
A ‘Tech’d Up’ Philippines
“Our rallying cry the past three years has been to help ‘Tech Up Pilipinas’,” said UnionBank President and CEO Edwin Bautista as he introduced the center for learning and collaboration that is the Innovation Campus. “We are committed to assist the government in whatever way we can, to speed up our country’s digital adoption.”
“The initiatives are precisely the kind of innovations, the kind of forward-thinking, operations, and actions that we will need, not only in the private sector but also in the public sector, so that we in government can be participants in the new digital world, wherein we are living in more and more in our day-to-day lives.”
—President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.
He was among the first to have a tour of the campus’ facilities. The President was earlier joined in a unique digital ribbon-cutting ceremony by President Bautista, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Alfredo Pascual, UnionBank Chairman Erramon Aboitiz, Aboitiz Equity Ventures President and CEO Sabin Aboitiz, SSS President and CEO Michael Regino, and Insular Life Executive Chairperson Nina Aguas.
“UnionDigital Bank prides itself on being tech-forward,” said Arvie de Vera, co-founder, and CEO of UnionDigital Bank. “With the first-in-the-industry smart campus, innovation becomes front and center in all of the things we do, strengthening our vision of a connected, financially inclusive, and tech-enabled Philippines.”
What exactly does a Tech’d Up Philippines entail?
UnionBank’s digital journey started long before it was an industry imperative. Driven by its higher purpose to ‘Tech Up, Pilipinas’, the bank has built a solid reputation for cutting edge innovation and productive collaboration with government. It has been a reliable partner of the Social Security System, the Bureau of Treasury, the Bangko Sentral, and the Supreme Court. It has also been instrumental in the exponential growth of MSMEs through pioneering digital solutions.
Undoubtedly the Philippines’ pioneer in digital banking. UnionBank is committed to be the region’s digital trailblazer to best serve the growing needs of Filipinos everywhere.
“We have a physical world, and we have a digital world. So how might we do banking and payments in the virtual world? There are many use cases for these,” UnionBank chief human resources officer Michelle Rubio said. She spoke about how the banking industry can leverage the metaverse, citing blockchain technology as one of the areas of interest that UnionBank wishes to develop.
For its 40th anniversary in the banking industry, UnionBank will also hold an NFT (nonfungible token) auction of “digital artifacts” related to its company history. “These are interesting applications for NFTs. And we want to be a center of excellence when it comes to the metaverse,” Rubio added.
Moreover, its digital bank has partnered with veritable players in the industry: Nexplay, Yield Guild Games (YGG), Euronet, Visa, and PeraHub. And true to its pioneering work in digitalization, it also introduced an exciting metaverse project called New Manila 2050. Through the project made in collaboration with its various partners in government and the private sector, UnionBank aims to create a vibrant Web3 community for Filipinos to safely discover, learn, and collaborate in the online space.
The inaugural three-day Innovation Festival held from September 7 to 9 also saw innovative digital solutions, applications, and the latest trends in financial technology, data science and artificial intelligence, open finance, and education technology. These technologies are expected to help ramp up UnionBank’s position as a leader in helping local entrepreneurs and their companies, as well as the government, to become globally competitive.
The Innovation Campus is also expected to welcome collaborations, especially with startups under the fintech category. It is worth noting though that UnionBank has already been supporting and investing in startups through its fintech venture studio and fund UBX.
During the three-day festival, UnionBank was able to bring together like-minded tech startups through a series of panel discussions, learning sessions, and activities such as a hackathon in partnership with the DTI.
The future of digital banking
On the consumer end, the UnionDigital Bank app also went live for a limited number of customers during the festival. The app is currently available by invitation only.
The branchless, paperless, and thus unencumbered by legacy infrastructure digital bank aims to empower the country’s journey towards a fully digital economy.
UnionDigital Bank is one of only six digital banks, as of August, to be licensed by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) after a three-stage digital bank license application process that culminated in the granting of a certificate of authority to operate as a digital bank in July.
Its app is one of the few in the local market that doesn’t just offer traditional savings and time deposit accounts. One of its goals is to improve the access of micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to credit through mobile-friendly lending and investment facilities.
With UnionDigital Bank, the banking institution’s goal goes back to its vision of a Tech’d Up Ph, where there is inclusive growth for everyone. And that means making features accessible to a wider range of users and markets.
This is also in line with BSP’s Digital Payments Transformation Roadmap which targets to financially include 70 percent of Filipino adults by 2023 by onboarding them to the formal financial system. UnionBank has already been doing so by integrating its services into everyday financial transactions for Filipinos including the government’s Social Amelioration Program 2, which provided cash grants to beneficiaries during the pandemic.
The 2022 UnionBank Innovation Festival was made possible in partnership with Huawei, Cloudera, Globe, TIM, Amazon Web Services, VMWARE/Integrated Compute, Questronix, BlueVoyant, Palo Alto, Salesforce, ICS, via-Appia.ph, Twilio, Tableau, Pointwest, ConvergeICT, Metaco, and the DTI.