UBX appoints new Chief Investment Officer

In line with its strategy to explore and invest in companies and platforms of the future, UBX—the Fintech and Corporate Venture Capital arm of Union Bank of the Philippines (UnionBank) — is announcing the appointment of Matthew Kolling as the company’s Chief Investment Officer (CIO).

UBX CIO Matthew Kolling
UBX CIO Matthew Kolling

As CIO, Kolling will be managing UBX’s Corporate Venture Capital (CVC) fund. He will also play a key role in raising capital for UBX while assisting the company in key corporate transactions, including the structuring of joint ventures and acquisitions.

Prior to his appointment at UBX, Kolling has been Head of Venture Investments at Aboitiz & Company since 2019, wherein he had been working with UBX on investment portfolio decisions. Before that, he held senior positions in Private Equity, Venture Capital, and Investment Banking at firms such as Providence Equity Partners and Morgan Stanley in New York.

Kolling has more than 20 years of experience in managing investments and deals in the Technology and Telecommunications industries and is active in Venture Capital and startup communities in the Philippines and the Southeast Asian region. He currently chairs the Manila Angel Investors Network, among others.

“We at UBX are excited to welcome Matt as our new CIO. We firmly believe that Matt will be instrumental in driving value creation opportunities, both within the CVC fund and our corporate ventures. We look forward to working with him as we fulfill UBX’s vision of a future where banking services are embedded into everyday experiences that matter,” said UBX president and CEO John Januszczak.

Meanwhile, UnionBank president and CEO Edwin Bautista said, “The addition of world-class talents in our pool reinforces our strategy to future-proof the organization and our business as we prepare for many new opportunities that come with the changing times.”

Philippine Bureau of the Treasury is among Asia’s pioneers in leveraging Distributed Ledger Technology (Blockchain) for bond distribution

The Philippine Bureau of the Treasury (BTr), together with Union Bank of the Philippines (UnionBank) and the Philippine Digital Asset Exchange (PDAX) – a Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) licensed entity, is the first in Asia to launch an app for the distribution of government bonds enabled by Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT).

Philippine Bureau of the Treasury is among Asia’s pioneers in leveraging Distributed Ledger Technology (Blockchain) for bond distribution

National Treasurer Rosalia V. De Leon said, “The launch of Bonds.PH paves the way for all Filipinos, particularly the unbanked, to easily and affordably invest in the BTr’s newest retail treasury bond, RTB-24. The mobile app presents a compelling opportunity for all to invest and help the Republic raise funds for economic recovery and COVID-19 response.”

Bonds.PH makes bond investing easy. It’s completely digital and available 24/7. Filipinos can invest in retail treasury bonds by downloading the app and pay, for as low as PHP 5,000.00, using InstaPay, GCash, Paymaya, and digital as well as over-the-counter at UnionBank.

Treasurer De Leon, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and UnionBank Vice Chair Justo Ortiz onsite, together with BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno and National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua virtually, did a demo of the Bonds.PH app at the official launch held yesterday.

“This is the first retail treasury bond issuance to leverage on blockchain technology – in Asia, and likely the world,” said Edwin R. Bautista, UnionBank President and CEO. “The Philippines is ready to lead the way into the future and tech up the nation with innovative, inclusive opportunities, powered by emerging technologies, for the benefit of all Filipinos.”

Bonds.PH is blockchain-enabled as transactions are recorded in a DLT-based registry in addition to the existing NROSS system. DLT enables immutable and tamper-proof record-keeping as it is recorded on the blockchain.

According to Nichel Gaba, Founder and CEO of PDAX – a fintech investment of UBX (a UnionBank subsidiary), “DLT or blockchain technology is governance by design with its cryptography and programmable smart contracts. This advantage allows the blockchain not only to preserve truth, but also to automate payments, enforce rules, and facilitate complex transactions via smart contracts at little to no cost.”

As such, DLT reduces manual verification and simplifies reconciliation bringing down processing time and costs. This is why the BTr sanctioned the pioneering effort so that through the pilot it can determine if leveraging DLT makes retail treasury bond distribution to the unbanked feasible and economically viable.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) commended the groundbreaking endeavor.

“I want to congratulate the Philippine Bureau of the Treasury (BTr) for this important milestone,” said MAS Chief FinTech Officer Sopnendu Mohanty.

He added that, “2020 will be the year of commercialization of blockchain technology in the ASEAN region, and BTr’s efforts to build a DLT registry for bond issuance accelerates the success of the most exciting technology of our time. The blockchain community in Singapore will work together with the Philippines to share learnings, open-source resources and also facilitate connecting corresponding nodes to integrate market infrastructure for transparency and interoperability. The recently released Project Ubin Phase 5 findings by MAS will facilitate the creation of robust blockchain rails for future value creation.”

Chia Hock Lai, Co-Chairman of the Blockchain Association Singapore (BAS) and Chairman of the Singapore Fintech Association (SFA) said BAS and SFA are one with the MAS in fully supporting the Philippines and UnionBank in utilizing blockchain for financial inclusion.

The Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) likewise offered its support.

“With our mandate to facilitate financial inclusion while maintaining investor protection, we support this initiative, which makes use of Distributed Ledger Technology,” said SEC Commissioner Ephyro Luis B. Amatong. “We look forward to the results from this initiative, which will contribute greatly to future DLT use cases for capital markets,” he added. The Philippine SEC is among the more progressive regulators in the world having released rules on crowdfunding, as well as draft rules on digital assets and digital exchanges.

Meanwhile, the BSP lauded the initiative for its impact on inclusive prosperity, “Given our advocacy to accelerate the digital delivery of financial services while deepening financial inclusion, we view Bonds.PH as a welcome addition to the expanding suite of available financial products serving wide market segments via innovative delivery channels and bridging the financially excluded,” said BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno.

“From the basic easing of the public’s access to transaction accounts to now this offering of retail treasury bonds to the masses in a simplified yet secure manner, shows the remarkable progress of our shared financial inclusion agenda. This surely marks the transition of blockchain technology from its buzzword status to a feasible, production grade solution capable of democratizing access to digital financial services,” said the Central Bank Chief.

“We look forward to the expansive adoption and success of this initiative and the public can always count on the BSP to remain supportive of responsible digital financial innovations,” he added.

UnionBank Vice Chair Ortiz, who also serves as Chairman of the Distributed Ledger Technology Association of the Philippines (DLTAP) and the Philippine Payments Management, Inc. (PPMI) added that, “Democratizing investment through digital channels and Distributed Ledger Technology allows all Filipinos to contribute to and accrue the benefits of nation building. Every Aling Belen and Mang Juan can save and invest. Download Bonds.PH now from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store and invest in our country!”

Union Bank of the Philippines Bridges the Gap for Unbanked Filipinos through Cash-out via 11,000 Remittance Outlets Nationwide

Union Bank of the Philippines (UnionBank) recently rolled out more cash-out options for customers via 11,000 remittance counters across the Philippines, including in rural areas where most of the unbanked and underserved population are located.

Union Bank of the Filippines

This makes UnionBank the first Philippine bank to launch the largest cash-out network in the country – a crucial step seen to significantly improve access to financial services for communities amidst the current pandemic.

Recognizing that sending funds to families and relatives living in provinces has been challenging, especially in far-flung areas where ATMs and bank branches are scarce or unavailable, UnionBank identified that the best course of action to address this concern was to enable customers to send money from home via its app to remittance counters in underserved areas.

The Bank leveraged existing partnerships with top Philippine fintechs such as Dragonpay and Coins.ph, as well as remittance centers Cebuana Lhuillier, LBC, PeraHub and Palawan Express. Integrating the service on UnionBank’s app was made possible in a short amount of time through Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) exposed on the Bank’s API Developer Portal/ Marketplace. This also enabled rural banks, who are currently on the UnionBank’s i2i network, to connect to the payout counters, allowing their account holders to send or withdraw funds from these non-traditional outlets.

In just a couple of weeks, UnionBank secured approval from the Central Bank of the Philippines, to perform a live pilot remittance and roll out the feature in the UnionBank Online app.

“With the onset of this pandemic, it has become crucial that our products and services quickly adapt to the challenges presented in this new digital normal,” said Edwin Bautista, UnionBank President and Chief Executive Officer. “This cash-out service is just one way for UnionBank to demonstrate its commitment to financial inclusion as we continue venturing forth in tech-ing up the Philippines.”

Upon the launch of this service, UnionBank noted an immediate high uptake by its customers. At the end of April 2020, with all major remittance centers available through the service, transactions have more than doubled. The Bank also recorded a 20% increase in daily digital account opening as a result of this feature.

“Through collaboration with various UnionBank teams and our fintech partners, we have demonstrated that the spirit of community is very much alive as we address the needs of our countrymen,” said Arvie de Vera, UnionBank Senior Vice President and Fintech Group Head. “This is a testament that we can use technology and digital services to ensure that no one gets left behind, especially as we weather through this ongoing crisis.”

Pent-up desire for holidays drives spike in demand for multi-currency cards

There has been a “sudden surge” in the demand for multi-currency cards as holidays and overseas trips are planned and as the pound remains weak, reveals the CEO of one of the world’s largest independent financial advisory and fintech organisations.

The observation from Nigel Green, chief executive and founder of deVere Group, which in 2017 launched the pioneering global e-money app and multi-currency card, deVere Vault, comes as international borders are gradually re-opened around the world following the pandemic and ahead of the busiest time for holiday travel.

Mr Green comments: “There’s been a sudden surge in the last week from clients looking to use our e-money app and multi-currency payment card.

“This spike, we believe, is due to a steady relaxation of travel restrictions releasing a pent-up desire to escape lockdown, take a summer holiday, and/or see friends and relatives overseas as the world gradually gets back on its feet after a highly unusual few months.”

He continues: “But the fragile global economy together with the weakness of the pound, which is making almost every destination in the world more expensive for Brits, are making people even more pro-active in searching low-cost exchange rates and low-cost banking.

“The pound continues to be one of the worst-performing currencies in the world as we head into peak summer holiday season – and it could get further battered should the current Brexit negotiations fail.

“Against this backdrop, it is sensible that people are seeing the value in managing, spending and receiving money anywhere in the world without hassle and excessive exchange rates by using deVere Vault.”

Launched shortly after the Brexit referendum caused a significant drop in the value of the pound, deVere Vault is a trailblazing app and its Prepaid Mastercard®️ allows clients to spend, receive, store and transfer money in up to 27 different currencies.

Added to holidaymakers’ exchange rate concerns are excessive bank charges.
 
Mr Green says: “When you use your debit or credit card abroad in anything other than your destination’s local currency, you could be paying excessive exchange fees.
 
 “Typically, an extra 6% is added on top, but these fees can be up to 10%.  All too often the customer is completely unaware of these costs.
 
“This is simply not on. In an increasingly globalised world, people have the right to expect hassle-free, borderless access to and use of their money, without over-the-top charges.
 
“deVere Vault addresses these issues.” 

It automatically pays in Sterling in the UK, U.S. Dollars in the States, Euros in the eurozone, and Swiss Francs in Switzerland, for example.

The multi-currency account also allows you to withdraw and spend money anywhere in the world where Mastercard is accepted.

The deVere CEO concludes: “The world is beginning to re-open, but, more than ever, those planning trips abroad don’t want to get caught out. They need and want to protect their holiday cash from excessive exchange rate and banking fees.”

Cryptocurrency 101: Learn the Basics

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard of cryptocurrency. Cryptocurrency is a virtual currency that could replace our cash system one day. 

Virtual currencies like Bitcoin are working to cut out the middle man in our banking transactions. Read this article to learn cryptocurrency 101 and whether you should invest or pass. 

Cryptocurrency 101

Cryptocurrency is a virtual or digital currency. It is secured by cryptography. Cryptography is a method of encoding and decoding data. Essentially cryptography puts the “crypt” in cryptocurrency. Cryptography makes it almost impossible to counterfeit money. 

Cryptocurrencies (yes there are more than one) use blockchain technology. It works by dispersing a ledger among a network of computers. These computers all work to keep up with it. 

Understanding Cryptocurrency: How it Works

With cryptocurrencies, there isn’t a central authority. They are not issued by a government or a bank. In theory, this makes cryptocurrencies free from government interference or manipulation.

Payments are made online using “tokens”. The ledger keeps track of all the entries and how much currency everyone has. Verifying transactions is usually the role of the banks but cryptocurrency relies on the peer-to-peer system. 

This system allows for your transactions to be secure. It reduces the risk of fraud and allows your transactions to be more transparent. 

Popular Cryptocurrencies 

Bitcoin was the first blockchain-based cryptocurrency. It was started in 2009 by an individual known as Satoshi Nakamoto. Today it remains the most popular and valuable. 

Since Bitcoin started there are now thousands of different cryptocurrencies people can use. Each cryptocurrency has its function in the market. Some of these cryptocurrencies copied Bitcoin and others were built from scratch. 

At the time of this article, USD 27.5 billion BTC has been traded in the past 24 hours. A single token or BTC of Bitcoin is worth USD 9,435.04. 

Other popular cryptocurrencies include Litecoin, Ethereum, Namecoin, Cardano, and EOS. If we calculator the total value of cryptocurrencies all together that number would be around USD 251.8 billion. To put that into perspective that is about 0.7% of the world’s money. 

Is Cryptocurrency Safe?

Cryptocurrency experts would remind you that Investing is always a risky business. However, Some traditional experts say investing in cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin, is even more of a risk. 

The world has been caught up in “crypto-mania” as people began buying and selling cryptocurrency like stocks. We’ve all heard the stories of people who became millionaires overnight thanks to Bitcoin business opportunities. 

We’re not going to suggest investments. That should be left to you and your portfolio manager. However, we will say you shouldn’t invest in something you don’t fully understand. This advice goes for any investment. 

Pros of Cryptocurrency

There are a lot of pros of cryptocurrencies. Cryptocurrencies make it much easier for two parties to exchange funds. No longer do you need a bank or credit card company to serve as a middle man. 

The transfers are secure. There is very little risk of counterfeiting or double-spending. They are also completed with very minimal transfer fees. The fee is much lower than the charge for a wire transfer from a bank. 

With more customers choosing to make payments from their mobile phone, tablet, or Apple Watch, cryptocurrency is a cheaper and more efficient system for payment. 

Cryptocurrencies have the potential to create a borderless, global economy. That’s a win for everyone (well, maybe except banks). It can help fight financial inequality by taking out the bank and credit card middlemen and bring financial services directly to the people.

Cons of Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency sounds great but there are a few drawbacks to blockchain the technology it is based on. For one, blockchain isn’t as scalable as centralized banking systems. If you’ve ever made a bitcoin transaction then you noticed it took some time to complete. 

Remember the ledger we talked about? The blockchain network of computers is kinda slow to make changes to the ledger. And if you think it is slow now just think about how slow it would be if more people started using bitcoin!

Another common issue is that you can lose your cryptocurrency hack. When you purchase cryptocurrency most people store it in their wallet. Wallets are located on the exchange.

Billions of dollars of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have been lost on the exchange from hackers. 

A smarter place to store your cryptocurrency would be on your smartphone’s cryptocurrency wallet because generally speaking, smartphones are not hacked. 

But even if you use a wallet on your smartphone it is still possible to lose your cryptocurrency. You could misplace or forget your “key” or password for the account. There is no forgot my password link to click with cryptocurrencies.  

Your phone’s OS, operating system, could also become corrupt. This could delete your wallet from your phone. Bye-bye cryptocurrency. There is hardware now available for people to back up and secure their wallets. 

Trading Cryptocurrency 

If you are trading cryptocurrencies, there will be fees involved. These fees are still a fraction of a per cent of the total transaction amount depending on the cryptocurrency exchange you use. You can also avoid some fees by using your wallet.

The fees involved will vary depending on the total number of people who are buying and selling your particular cryptocurrency.

In general, the more people the higher the fee. In the beginning, when most people had never heard of trading Bitcoin the transaction fee was around 6 cents. Today that fee is much more and it is always changing. 

Consult With Your Financial Advisor

We hope you enjoyed reading cryptocurrency 101. Many positive benefits could come from a virtual currency like Bitcoin or others. There are also many other positive benefits blockchain technology has in healthcare or voting systems that are also being explored. 

Be sure to subscribe to our print magazine and follow us for more content on technology, business, investing, and finance. 

5 Benefits of Acquiring Payday Loans Online

It is well-known that online payday loans are an excellent option to cope with unannounced financial problems. If you have found yourself in a challenging situation like medical emergency, late utility bills, and mortgage repayments, you can acquire a payday loan. It can be advantageous for you in more than one way.

Fast Processing

If you are looking for bad credit loans monthly payments, you should definitely consider obtaining payday loans because they process very fast. Unlike traditional loans, you don’t have to go through lengthy processes. If you apply for a payday loan with a good online lending company, your loan application will be approved within minutes. And you will be able to acquire cash on the same day. You wouldn’t have to wait for days or even weeks to meet your financial emergencies. You can feasibly apply for payday loans online under any unexpected financial situation.

Easily Qualification

You can conveniently qualify for payday loans online. You don’t have to face substantial documentation and lengthy processing periods like traditional loans. And there are low chances that your loan application will be rejected. Online lending companies have straightforward requirements if you happen to meet those, you are in a favorable position to acquire payday loans same day. You need to have a valid proof of monthly income, a bank account, and your driver’s license to qualify for loans easily. However, you should know that the amount of payday loans are totally dependent on your monthly income.

No Credit Check Process

Since payday loans are convenient, there is no such thing as a credit check process. You are only required to meet a few basic terms & conditions, and then you are good to qualify for a loan amount. You can surely apply for payday loans with no credit check. Individuals with even bad credit history or score can easily be eligible for payday loans as long as they are capable enough to give valid proof of their monthly incomes. When it comes to payday loans, you don’t have to worry about credit checks. It is noticed that only a few online lenders ask for a credit check when it comes to negotiating for a significant amount.

No Usage Limitations

You can use payday loans for anything. Generally, these loans have no limitations; it doesn’t matter what payday loans can be used for. When it comes to traditional bank loans, you are bound to use the amount for one or two things. For instance, if you are applying for a bridge loan, you will be able to use this just for purchasing or selling your property. However, with payday loans, you are not bound at all. You can acquire payday loans to meet your financial needs under any emergency. Your lender will have no issues as you can use the loan amount for whatever reasons.

Automatic Lending System

When it comes to payday loans online, you can expect an automatic lending and transferring system. After an online lending company has approved your loan application, it will directly transfer the amount to your bank account. And once your payday has arrived, the borrowed amount will be transferred back to your lender automatically with added interest. You wouldn’t need to do anything else on your end.

Union Bank of the Philippines appoints world-leading Data Scientist to further advance digital capabilities

Consistent with its commitment to make banking simpler and more inclusive via best-in-class digital and mobile capabilities, Union Bank of the Philippines (UnionBank) recently appointed global data science expert Dr. David Hardoon Ph. D., as the Bank’s Senior Advisor for Data and Artificial Intelligence (D & AI), reporting to President and CEO Edwin R. Bautista.

Senior Advisor for Data and Artificial Intelligence (D & AI): Dr. David Hardoon Ph. D.

The announcement was made as the Bank continues to see a surge in digital transactions among customers as a result of evolving consumer behavior amplified by the current enhanced community quarantine.  These transactions mean an increased volume of data running through the Bank’s systems which data science and AI can unlock to allow the Bank to serve its customers better.

“Leveraging Data and AI is a key driver to our next-level of digital transformation as we continue to put the customer – both individuals and businesses – at the heart of our business,” said UnionBank President and CEO Edwin Bautista in a statement.

Dr. Hardoon replaces John Januszczak, who is now focused in his role as president and CEO of UBX, UnionBank’s fintech subsidiary.

Dr. Hardoon is a graduate of Royal Halloway, the University of London with First-Class Honors B.Sc. in Computer Science and AI, and a holder of a PhD in Machine Learning from the University of Southampton School of Electronics and Computer Science United Kingdom.

Prior to his appointment at UnionBank, Dr. Hardoon was the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s (MAS, Singapore’s counterpart of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas) first appointed Chief Data Officer and Head of the Data Analytics Group, and subsequently MAS’ Special Advisor on Artificial Intelligence. In these roles, he led the development of the AI strategy both for MAS and Singapore’s financial sector as well as efforts in promoting open cross-border data flow.

In addition, he led and established the ASEAN Advanced Analytics of Ernst & Young Advisory Singapore as Director of EY Data, IT Advisory Services, and co-founded Azendian Solutions Pte. Ltd., an information management and data science consultancy between 2013 and 2017. He was also Head of Analytics at SAS Institute Ltd. Singapore from 2010 to 2013.

As Senior Advisor for Data and AI, Dr. Hardoon will be working with various centers, groups, and units to reinforce data infrastructure and governance, behavior modelling, machine learning, and AI capabilities as well as applications in the Bank and its parent company Aboitiz Equity Ventures.

Aside from his role with the Bank, Dr. Hardoon is concurrently Senior Advisor for AI to Singapore’s Corrupt Investigation Practices Bureau, and Senior Advisor for Data Science to Singapore’s Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board.

Global advisory giant to launch major digital finance operation in Dubai

One of the world’s largest independent financial advisory and services organisations is to develop a major digital finance operation from Dubai, confirms its CEO and founder.

deVere Group’s Nigel Green made the announcement on Wednesday as the world readjusts to a post-pandemic new normal.

Mr Green comments: “The world has changed forever in the last few months, the market has changed and client expectations have changed.

“Much of this is being driven by new technologies and the rapid pace of the digitialisation of our lives, including our financial lives. 

“It was a trend that was happening pre-pandemic, but which has been massively accelerated because of it.

“Indeed, this new decade is being reshaped more rapidly and more dramatically than any other.

“To meet these fundamental shifts, we’re developing and building a major digital financial organisation from Dubai.”

There are, says Nigel Green, three main drivers why Dubai has been chosen for this by the organisation that does business in 100 countries worldwide.

“First, we already have had for more than 15 years a considerable footprint in Dubai and across the UAE, with many teams of highly talented individuals.

“Second, Dubai, which is already recognised as one of the most important financial centres in the world, can be expected to become one of the world’s top ten international financial hubs to rival and more aggressively compete with the likes of London, New York and Hong Kong.”
 
He adds: “Dubai is helped in this regard by having an independent regulator, an independent judicial system, a global financial exchange, a stable, pro-business government, a high proposition of high net worth individuals, a dynamic business community, world-class infrastructure, superior digital and telecommunications networks, English as its de-facto business language, and its enviable geographical location and time zone.

“And third is Dubai’s passion for and expertise in innovation. We’ve seen this in real-time as the emirate diversified from oil to become a truly global leader in trade, transportation, finance, tourism, retail and real estate.  

“This is exemplified by Expo 2020 Dubai’s theme, ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’; as well as Sultan Al Mansoori, the UAE Economy Minister, saying recently that the new economy will now be built around digital.”

The deVere CEO says that the Dubai-based digital financial organisation will consolidate and “significantly further develop and expand” the organisation’s pioneering global Contactless Finance service and its world-leading fintech apps, which allow people to access, use, save, invest and manage their money 24/7, on-the-go, anywhere in the world.

Nigel Green concludes: “Our new Dubai-based model is designed for the new world with, as always, the client experience, and expectations and outcomes front and centre of mind.”

UnionBank bolsters COVID-19 ‘Stay-At-Home’ with range of digital services

In response to the Philippine government’s “Stay At Home” directive as part of the ongoing enhanced community quarantine, Union Bank of the Philippines (UnionBank) continues to process a growing number of digital transactions and remains business-as-usual (BAU), throughout the ECQ.

For the month of March, UnionBank logged a nearly 160% in daily sign-ups to its online and mobile banking portals, and enabled more than 500,000 credit card transactions and well over 1 million Instapay and PesoNet fund transfer transactions. Importantly, the bank waived all its fees on InstaPay and PesoNet since the start of the ECQ and has extended this to April 30.  

Most significantly, UnionBank also registered a tremendous surge in new accounts opened “100% digitally” through the UnionBank Online platform, as this was 2700X higher than year-ago levels.

These robust figures come amid reports from several consumer monitoring groups that the behavior of banking customers may be changing, preferring to use digital channels during the lockdown.

UnionBank president and CEO Edwin Bautista said the coronavirus crisis could be the turning point in customers’ shift-to-digital – to safely access their funds, do transfer, make payments and apply for credit.

 “This represents a tremendous new opportunity for banking in the country as this should reduce the number of Filipinos who remain unbanked.  As this happens, we at UnionBank are fully prepared with the digital infrastructure already in place to offer full banking services to more people, more conveniently and more cost-effectively,” Bautista said. 

Along with its digital platforms that enable the public to bank from home, UnionBank also rolled out its 5G-enabled mobile van called 5G-Bank On Wheels (5G-BOW) to serve people’s banking needs during the ECQ.  

With its 5G-BOW clients can withdraw, pay bills, transfer funds, open an account and do balance-inquiries with faster, more robust bandwidth and internet connections, powered by its unique 5G technology.

In terms of its brick-and-mortar branches, UnionBank was able to keep 94% of its branches open, outside of those in medical quarantine and local lockdown areas; while safely keeping close to 90% of employees working from home in compliance with government guidelines.

How can cloud-based analytics help banks drive digital transformation?

By Paul Jones, Head of Technology, SAS UK & Ireland

Fintechs are turning up the heat in retail and corporate banking. As smaller, more agile providers have entered the banking market, customers are getting used to a higher level of service – a personalised, digital experience that guides them to make quicker, smarter decisions about their finances. For traditional banks to compete, they need to transform the way they operate. On the retail banking side, that means digitising customer-facing services. No queuing in branches, no paperwork. And when customers apply for a credit card or loan, they get a decision in seconds.

Meanwhile, on the corporate side, the aim of transformation is often to enable an everything as a service (XaaS) strategy, building smart packaged offerings such as treasury as a service or risk management as a service, which the bank can both consume in-house and provide to enterprise clients.

Data-driven digital transformation

To foster this type of digital business transformation, banks need to redesign both internal and customer-facing processes to embed data-driven decision making. By integrating intelligent automation and decisioning capabilities into their operations, banks can eliminate paperwork and manual processing. This will greatly improve service levels to customers while keeping the cost-to-serve to a minimum.

The creation of these data-driven services depends on the ability to design, build, test and deploy processes that embed predictive models using both well-established statistical methods and new artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) techniques. The development life cycle for these models is inherently experimental. It’s vital to try different approaches, test the results, and iterate on the candidates that offer the greatest potential. To remain relevant in the digital age, organisations must deliver such experiments with agility and speed.

The obstacle of legacy infrastructure

The problem is that banks’ traditional IT architectures – built around legacy on-premises systems – are a uniquely bad environment for developing these models. Due to the experimental nature of the models, it’s very difficult to forecast what type of infrastructure banks will need for upcoming projects. For example, different machine learning algorithms run best on hardware that has been optimised for that category of model building. If you invest in a cluster of servers with a particular configuration of memory and processors, it may only be suitable for a small subset of the work you actually need to do. And every time you need to change your approach, you’ll face high fixed costs and a long lead time to get the right infrastructure in place.

Instead, you need an IT architecture that allows you to set up experiments quickly and manage them flexibly. When an idea doesn’t work out, you should have the ability to fail fast and cut your losses. And when an idea succeeds, you need to get it into production rapidly and roll it out for enterprise-scale deployment.

The promise of cloud-based analytics

The cloud is the perfect environment for these exploratory projects. It gives you the freedom to spin up almost any type of infrastructure within minutes, and either scale it or shut it down instantly depending on the results.

Cloud environments also free you from dependencies on departmental silos and the quirks of your internal network. They give you a green-field site where cross-functional teams can collaborate freely, enabling you to build models that combine domain knowledge from different areas of the bank and create opportunities for XaaS offerings that would never have been possible in the past.

Regulatory hurdles

While most of the major public cloud providers now offer a range of analytics-specific infrastructure services, they come at a price. Once your data and models live in a particular proprietary cloud repository, they can be difficult to get out again. You’re locked into their infrastructure for the foreseeable future.

Besides the commercial implications, this lock-in poses a major regulatory problem for banks. According to the latest consultation paper on outsourcing and third-party risk management from the Prudential Regulatory Authority (PRA), regulators expect banks to be able to port any outsourced services over to another provider or bring them back in house without any risk to business continuity.

The right tool for the job

I’ve had conversations about moving to the cloud with CIOs at banks of various sizes, and this issue of portability has been a recurring theme. They are looking for analytics solutions that work with any vendor and run on any cloud platform – or move between platforms – without significant disruption. In fact, since many banking use cases involve analysing data that is too sensitive to store outside the internal network, one of the most-requested offerings is a hybrid cloud/on-premises solution. Banks could then perform experimental projects with anonymised data in the cloud and then bring the successful models back into their own data centre for deployment in production.

Finally, while there’s a lot of buzz around AI/ML techniques, it’s important to recognise that they are not always the best option. Traditional statistical methods can be equally powerful, cost less to maintain, and can be easier to explain and audit – an increasingly important capability, as a recent legal case in the Netherlands demonstrates. My advice is always that banks should look for a single platform that gives equal support to both statistical and AI/ML modelling techniques and provides easy-to-use visualisations that make models easier to interpret. This allows your data scientists to pick the best tool for the job. And makes it easier for you to ensure the safe and responsible use of your data.

We’re working with a number of leading banks to power their digital transformation initiatives and build towards the XaaS future in the cloud. Find out more about what’s possible with cloud computing.