November 15, 2018. UnionBank reveals it has spent Php 6 billion on technology for the past 3 years, conceding that the bank has to “digitize or perish,” said bank president Edwin Bautista to ABS-CBN in an interview in Singapore this year.
Spending on tech means UnionBank did not spend on new branches, but instead put that money into the bank’s digital shift. First on the list is “The Ark”, UnionBank’s paperless digital bank where customers do transactions via an iPad and make use of virtual reality on some purchase decisions. Mr. Bautista said they are keen in opening 15 Arks before the year ends and 50 Arks by 2019.
Next is its blockchain project – i2i – in partnership with ConsenSys. UnionBank onboarded rural banks into a blockchain platform (called Kaleido) in order to connect these small banks into the main banking network. By connecting the rural banks to the main network through the blockchain, they will be able to perform banking functions similar to what universal banks can do, coursed through Union Bank.
6 rural banks are already on Project i2i and UnionBank said they have signed up 150 of them already.
The bank also said it has put up around Php 500 million on a fintech project that will be operational this year. In addition to that, it opened a blockchain institute, with an aim to aim hundreds of developers to become part of the blockchain talent pool.
All these activities did not stop the bank from leading the blockchain initiative in the country. It has been very visible in blockchain events and took charge in founding the Blockchain Association of the Philippines. Lastly, it has joined a blockchain-based interbank network to facilitate cross-border payments across the major markets like North America and Europe.
UnionBank, however, publicly mentioned that despite the digital push, existing employees will not be lost, only old processes. Mr. Bautista said that a third of the personnel will transition to new roles in the next 24 months.