UPSKILLING will be necessary for bankers in transitioning to the “new normal” as digitalization and online transactions gain traction, an official from UnionBank of the Philippines, Inc. said.

In an online press briefing on Wednesday, UnionBank Executive Vice-President and Chief Human Resource Officer Michelle E. Rubio said bankers will have to adjust amid the new working landscape due to the pandemic.

Ms. Rubio said 70% of their 3,500 employees are working from home as restrictions remain, while the rest are doing skeletal and frontline work to service their branches.

“Definitely, we’ve invested in technology upgrading because you need the infra[structure] to get to this stage and these investments have actually produced good results for us,” she said.

Ms. Rubio also noted the bank’s relatively young workforce with a median age of “about 36 to 37 [years old], making them more comfortable with remote work.

Despite the work-from-home situation, Ms. Rubio said they were able to develop new offerings to help their clients access financial services during the lockdown period.

“People wanted to send money to the provinces, right? So the UnionBank online app had an iteration,” she said, noting users can now send money through remittance firms including Palawan Pawnshop and Express Padala, LBC Express Holdings, Inc. and Cebuana Lhuillier, among others.

Ms. Rubio said the lender will continue its thrust to upskill bankers as the country moves to a “new normal.”

“It has become very useful because when you are knowledgeable about many things, when you participate in a squat or a collaborative work, you understand, you have the perspective, and because of that you can contribute and you become more productive,” she said.

The Aboitiz-led lender’s net income jumped by 22% year on year to P2.641 billion in the first quarter.

Revenues also rose by 37% to P9.5 billion as net interest income climbed by P6.8 billion.

UnionBank’s shares closed unchanged at P55 apiece on Wednesday. — L.W.T. Noble