[Interview] UnionBank Assures It’s Still the Most Crypto-Friendly Bank in the Philippines Amid Reports of Account Closures on Social Media
By Michael Mislos with additional reporting from Shiela Bertillo
In an interview with BitPinas, Arvie de Vera, Senior Vice President & Head, Fintech Business Group at UnionBank and now CEO of UnionDigital, assures that the bank will continue to serve the cryptocurrency community in the Philippines. This comes after various posts on social media from UnionBank customers having their accounts put on-hold or reportedly closed.
“We remain the only bank with real links to crypto exchanges and open to retail accounts and traders,” Arvie said in a phone interview.
When asked of reports that peer-to-peer transactions and cashing out from Binance, a global crypto exchange, to UnionBank is no longer allowed, Arvie assures the public, “You can go to Binance right now and you’ll see that it’s still allowed.”
When asked about the customers sharing on social media about problems with their UnionBank account because of crypto trading, Arvie said the bank always needs to know two things 1) Who the customer/account holder is and 2) Where is the funds coming from.
As discussed in previous BitPinas articles, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas instructs the banks to have enhanced “know-your-customer” or KYC and follow strict anti-money laundering or AML procedures to make sure they are not used as a gateway for illicit money to enter the Philippine financial system. So when the bank detects that an account receives a certain amount of money not on the level of funds it normally receives, the bank is compelled by the BSP to file a suspicious transaction report. Note that the amount of money does not need to be very big; a deviation from the client’s past transactions with the bank will be enough to trigger the report.
Arvie said accounts that raised suspicions are put on hold and the account holders are given time to provide necessary information and documents to prove where the money came from. “Those who are able to provide (and able to satisfy the bank) have their accounts restored but it’s just that there are some who are really unwilling to provide the documents we need,” said Arvie, who disclosed they are accepting even screenshots of Binance transactions.
A UnionBank customer shared in a Reddit post their recent interaction with the bank, which told them that it no longer allows peer-to-peer (P2P) and cryptocurrency transactions for their account.
The user disclosed that they received an email from UnionBank about “Digital Transaction Verification” due to the bank detecting “unusual transactions” from the user’s account as “Binance is not registered with the BSP,” the post stated.
The user also mentioned that the bank asked for more information such as the purpose of the transactions. They also asked for soft copies of appropriate documents regarding their source of funds like employment salary, latest Income Tax Return (ITR), COE or payslip , and company ID.
Moreover, the bank also asked for the user’s Bitcoin/crypto trading records such as a “screenshots of the Bitcoin platform” as a verified crypto trader with KYC done with crypto clients, as well as screenshots of transactions and trading history.
UnionBank also asked for the user’s latest 3-months statement from other banks and the nature and income of their business with supporting relevant business permits if any.
Upon submitting the requirements, the user also said that the bank called and asked if they do P2P transactions in which they replied with “yes.”
However, the bank said that they will deactivate the user’s account as “Binance is not registered with BSP and it’s not allowed anymore,” the Reddit post claimed.
“Please be advised that your account will be restricted from receiving funds, you may zero out your account balance so we may proceed with the account closure,” UnionBank added in a follow-up email, said the Reddit user.
Is P2P Not Allowed in UnionBank Anymore?
The Reddit poster said they talked to a UnionBank person who specifically said it’s no longer allowed. However, this is disputed by other users, such as the user below who said they recently did a 6-figure transaction:
As mentioned earlier in the article, Arvie de Vera of UnionBank said this in the BitPinas interview:
UnionBank was recently involved in an incident where BDO accounts were hacked by cybercriminals, stealing from Php 25,000 thousand to Php 50,000 per account. The money stolen from BDO accounts were transferred to the scammer named “Mark D. Nagoyo” who has multiple UnionBank accounts.
Following the incident, veteran newspaper columnist Boo Chanco questioned UnionBank’s Know-your-customer (KYC) credibility, saying it should also hold them accountable to the mishap. (Read more: Veteran Columnist: Does UnionBank have weak KYC?)
However, the Filipino crypto community priorly expressed their views regarding the hack stating that UnionBank nor cryptocurrency should be blamed for the incident. In a post, Luis Buenaventura, essayist at Cryptoday, said “implying that UB is a bank for criminals isn’t helpful in this conversation.”
“At best, it’s unnecessarily provocative. At worst, it will compel UB to lower its transaction limits and create bottlenecks for customers with real high-volume use cases,” Buenaventura added. (Read more: Crypto Community Reacted to BDO Hacking Incident)
This article is published on BitPinas: UnionBank Assures It’s Still the Most Crypto-Friendly Bank in the Philippines Amidst Reports of Account Closures on Social Media