UnionBank Credits Mind Shift for Growth and Digital Transformation

UnionBank’s decision to change its mindset, retool, and upskill itself has powered its digital transformation and made it the best retail bank in the country.

UnionBank’s decision to change its mindset, retool, and upskill itself has enabled its impressive growth, making it the Philippines’ best retail bank, according to the prestigious Asian Banker Awards.  

Multi-awarded, UnionBank of the Philippines says its digital transformation has put it on track to be the country’s leading digital bank, and be an enabler of the Philippines’ push to be a G20 country by 2050.

In a talk during the latest SaasCon, the biggest Business to Business Service as a software (SaaS) conference in the country, UnionBank shared that it was the resolve to go digital, and change its mindset, that expedited its innovation and expansion.

Anna Aboitiz-Delgado, UnionBank’s Chief Digital Channels Officer recalled, their goal was set way back in in 2016, to become the best digitally transformed bank in the country. Their plan entailed three phases consisting of building the core, launching digital channels, and the rollout and commercialization of their products and services.

Since then, UnionBank has launched several firsts in the industry, such as being the first to use an online payment card, allow online check deposits, introduce the first fully digital bank in the country through ARK, and many other end to end digital banking services, that have made retail banking a more efficient and pleasant experience for its growing deposit base.  

Shift Towards Digital Transformation

Delgado credited their early efforts in digital transformation for allowing them to seamlessly shift during the global pandemic. “We were able to work from home since day one,” she recalled. “We not just survived but thrived during the pandemic and expanded our customer base.”

Probably their biggest milestone during the period was the acquisition of Citi’s retail business in 2021 for PHP 72 billion, which strengthened the bank’s foothold across three consumer businesses: credit cards, salary or personal loans, and mortgage loans.

But Delgado admits, they did not immediately realize the mind shift and “people transformation” that were needed to make their digital evolution possible.  This meant not just adapting new systems and applications, but addressing the fear of technology and of not knowing, and ensuring that no one got left behind in the process of upskilling the entire team.

In evolving, she said they also had to accept failures along the way, but learn their lesson quickly.  “We had to change the way we worked, release things faster, and learn how to fail fast,” Delgado explained. It also meant learning how to accept their weaknesses and asking for support in areas that were not their competency.

“Fintechs and start-ups, we need to be open to working with them to deliver services that they can do better,” she added.

The mind shift has served the bank well. The Aboitiz-led bank has been awarded The Best Retail Bank in the country for the fifth straight year, by the prestigious, The Asian Banker Awards Programmes. It is also currently the second largest in terms of retail customer base, and the second largest in digital transactions, with Gcash being number one. To follow in their footsteps, Delgado advises companies to be prepared to change their mindset and be open to constantly change and evolve, to keep up with the new and more technology-driven world.