LOCAL COMPANIES are looking to avail of customized banking services to improve the efficiency of their transactions, according to UnionBank of the Philippines, Inc.

John Cary L. Ong, UnionBank executive vice-president and head of Transaction Banking Center said the local landscape is “quite unique” compared to its counterparts in the region where payment systems are standard and efficient.

“For the Filipino corporates, there’s a lot of customization that’s required. So every corporate that you speak to, especially the large ones, they would have their unique requirements. They need someone who can sort of be flexible to everyone,” he said in an interview with BusinessWorld in December.

He cited Singapore’s General Interbank Recurring Order or GIRO which is an automated electronic payment system governing banks in the city-state.

In the Philippines, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has kickstarted the National Retail Payment System (NRPS) back in 2015 in a bid to streamline financial transactions in a more systematic way and to gradually veer away from cash and cheques and towards electronic fund transfers (EFT). This is in line with the BSP’s target to have e-payments comprise 20% of total transactions in the country by 2020.

The PESONet which is part of the NRPS and is an EFT service which allows batch processing that enables fund transfers to be credited to the receiver by the end of the banking date.

In line with these efforts, UnionBank has launched The Portal which is a corporate banking platform that streamlines client transactions on a single platform.

Prior to The Portal, the lender had The Hub which Mr. Ong said was not a “one platform for all transactions” scheme as it has many modules and required separate logins.

“It (The Portal) was really a complete overhaul for us and primarily because what we wanted to do was consolidate all these different systems which the corporates have touch points with and put it all into one platform,” Mr. Ong said.

The Portal is set to cater to firms’ need for a customized corporate banking experience with all its features accessible both through the website and the app.

With corporate clients always on the go, Mr. Ong said the platform’s flexibility of access will be convenient for them.

“What we’ve done is anything you can do on the website, you can also do. You can initiate a transaction on the app, you can switch organizations, you can authorize payments,” he explained.

Mr. Ong said The Portal will also address one vital pain point in corporate banking which is setting up approval hierarchy, noting that they have customers that have very complex approval matrix data.

“So how we built the system is it can be very flexible and very easy to set up. So regardless of how complex the requirements are, we can cater to them,” he said.

He added that the bank has also consolidated approval and transaction schemes into one login for those that manage multiple entities.

So far, 5,000 customers or a sixth of the bank’s corporate clients have already migrated to The Portal, Mr. Ong said.

“But our target definitely by around end of next year, is to have half [of corporate customers] on The Portal, and once they are in, it’s easy for us to push for electronic payments and really encourage them to move away from cheques,” Mr. Ong, who is also the head of the PESONet Steering Committee, said.

The bank also launched its ARK For Business branch in Makati in December which is meant for business transactions. ARK Branches are equipped with IoT (Internet of Things) technologies to facilitate better customer-in-branch experience. — Luz Wendy T. Noble