UnionBank bags 2020 Model Bank Award for Financial Inclusion

Union Bank of the Philippines (UnionBank) recently received the 2020 Model Bank for Financial Inclusion Award from renowned financial services research and advisory firm Celent, a division of global consulting firm Oliver Wyman, for the bank’s two fintech initiatives promoting greater access to financial services.

Now on its 13th year, the Celent Model Bank Awards recognizes financial institutions for their outstanding technology projects with all nominations submitted undergoing a rigorous evaluation by Celent analysts.

Send-i2i’s concept and process was piloted at the Singapore Fintech Festival in November 2019 and is intended to tackle pain points in cross-border remittances made by over 10 million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). Through blockchain technology, Send-i2i is envisioned to connect rural banks across the Philippines to a partner bank in Singapore to perform transborder remittances.

Using PayNow QR and tokenized fiat, Send-i2i will boost customer experience with near real-time transactions. More importantly, it will champion financial inclusion for communities in the countryside who use rural banks as their go-to bank.

Meanwhile, UnionBank’s API Marketplace (developer.unionbankph.com) launched in 2018, empowers developers and fintechs to create new products and services by exposing a range of application programming interfaces (APIs), from both UnionBank and other fintech publishers, in a user-friendly platform.

Today, the API Marketplace boasts a wide array of UnionBank and non-bank APIs. Fintechs can add their APIs to the marketplace alongside UnionBank’s, allowing anyone on the platform to consume fintechs’ APIs as well.

The success of the API Marketplace has also allowed UnionBank to expand its reach internationally, by becoming the only bank from the Philippines to participate in the API Exchange (APIX), a pan-regional API sandbox for banks and fintechs run by the ASEAN Financial Innovation Network.

Celent’s Head of Retail Banking Zil Bareisis and Senior Analyst Keiran Hines cited UnionBank’s unique business-to-business-to-consumer (B2B2C) approach to financial inclusion “by enabling third parties, through Send i2i and API Marketplace, to provide or develop products and services to reach underbanked end-users in the Philippines.”

UnionBank Senior Vice President and Fintech Group Head Arvie de Vera said this latest award from Celent sparks further motivation for UnionBank.

“Celent’s case study of the Send-i2i and API Marketplace projects validated that UnionBank’s B2B2C strategy of collaborating with an ecosystem of incumbents and last-mile channels is a viable, scalable method towards financial inclusion,” De Vera said. “We are truly humbled that Celent presents UnionBank’s strategy as one that other banks should emulate - hence the award as the Model Bank.”

Committed to its ongoing “TechUp Pilipinas” drive, UnionBank constantly seeks out new technologies, methods and platforms to provide greater access to financial services for all Filipinos, particularly the unbanked and the underserved, comprising close to half of the Philippine population.