UnionBank expands cloud-based service
Lawrence Agcaoili (The Philippine Star) - September 4, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Aboitiz-led Union Bank of the Philippines is further expanding its cloud-computing footprint through its partnership with Amazon Web Services (AWS) as it continues to reap the benefits of its annual P3 billion investments in the digital space.

Henry Aguda, chief technology and chief transformation officer at UnionBank, said the bank would migrate its entire operations to the cloud from data centers in the next two to three years.

Given the new banking dynamics due to social distancing, UnionBank is actively pursuing a full cloud infrastructure. “We are still continuing to migrate our operations to AWS. Two to three years we will be on the cloud fully,” Aguda said.

Powered by AWS, UnionBank is no longer dependent on bandwidth hungry data centers as it goes straight to the cloud for most of its computing requirements.

He added UnionBank has the reputation of having one of the biggest cloud-computing footprints among the banks.

AWS is the leading on-demand cloud computing platform with over 175 fully featured services for compute, storage, databases, networking, analytics, robotics, machine learning and artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, mobile, security, hybrid and augmented reality, media application and development and management from 77 availability zones in 24 geographic regions.

UnionBank has been investing roughly P3 billion for its digital transformation over the past several years.

Aguda said the leading digital bank would continue to invest at the same pace moving forward, given how most of the bank’s expenditures are now in digital.

He said the bank’s digital assets including a chat bot, an online app and web facilities have helped them onboard additional customers without them having to visit physical branches.

UnionBank is averaging around 1,200 new digital accounts a day and have on boarded close to 260,000 digitally opened accounts since Luzon was placed under enhanced community quarantine in the middle of March to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Beyond being able to offer digital services to clients, UnionBank’s investments in digital and cloud infrastructure also gives it employees the flexibility to work from home during the pandemic, while still delivering high levels of service.

“If you take a look at the whole bank organization, around 85 percent of employees are working from home. In fact, if you look at the core of the banking industry, I think we are one of only two banks that I know of whose call center is fulfilled from the homes of call center agents,” Aguda said.

Amid government-imposed community lockdowns and border restrictions to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus, many businesses have been forced to fast-track their digital transformation efforts to remain relevant and survive.

“During this pandemic, we are operating digitally—meaning we are able to provide continuous banking service to our customers through the digital channels,” he said.

During the pandemic, Aguda said the volume of transactions in UnionBank’s digital channels was 11 times higher than over the counter. Digital transactions exceeded over-the counter-transactions as early as April.

“People cannot go out of their homes, go to bank branches. Even if the enhanced community quarantine was lifted, we have seen a huge drop in the number of customers going to the branches. Social distancing has highlighted the issue that customers should not line up in bank branches, which UnionBank has always advocated,” Aguda said.

According to UnionBank, digital banking would continue growing even after the pandemic.

“A lot of banking customers have been forced to study and learn about digital banking and adapt to digital banking (…) Digital payment is growing exponentially, so this trend, after the pandemic, is going to be the new normal,” Aguda said.

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