UNIONBANK of the Philippines, Inc. tied up with Western Union and Pera Hub to give remittance recipients the option to claim their cash in real time online through the bank’s online app.
The feature is available for UnionBank account holders, and Western Union remittance recipients will need to create an account online with the lender if they want to avail of the service.
“We hope this will give our OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) peace of mind so they do not have to worry more than they already do about their families back home. And to our customers, we remain committed to UnionBank’s pursuit of digital innovations to improve your banking experience and everyday lives,” UnionBank Executive Vice-President, Chief Customer Experience Officer and Chief Digital Channel Officer Ana Maria A. Delgado, said at the service’s virtual launch on Tuesday.
The partnership is seen to help diversify the remittance market in the Philippines, which broadly remained traditional and over-the-counter-based even with the Philippines being among the world’s biggest remittance recipients, UnionBank Senior Vice-President Ramon Vicente “Arvie” V. de Vera II said.
“Some people have to travel long distances to go to a remittance counter, fall in line for their turn, and when they get there, they travel back with a large amount of cash, worrying that during the commute they might get pickpocketed,” he said.
Mr. De Vera said the partnership will also allow remittance recipients to get their funds in a safer way amid restriction measures due to the pandemic.
Pera Hub Chief Executive Officer Ian T. Ocampo said while they have the advantage of having a network of physical branches, partnering with digital players and using technology and innovation is crucial for financial inclusion. He said this collaboration with Western Union and their fellow Aboitiz unit UnionBank is an opportunity to reach new client segments.
“We have seen over the years that they’ve (clients) become more comfortable with transacted online platforms. We do have our customers for our counters, but I think having this app will definitely attract more digital natives, younger people, who are used to dealing with technology,” Mr. Ocampo said.
UnionBank’s Mr. De Vera said online remittance claims per day are capped at P50,000, but they could adjust this limit moving forward.
Under the new service, only the sender will be charged for remittance fees. Recipients can have the funds credited to their account in real time by inputting details of the transaction in the UnionBank app, including the money tracking control number and the specific amount sent to them.
Jeffrey D. Navarro Head of Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei & Indochina for Western Union, said they have retained the model of only charging the sender as they operate on the premise that the receiver is the one who needs funds regardless of the channel where they claim the remittance.
“So as we move and migrate to different platforms, the way that we will still charge the service will be the same — senders will remain to pay for the fees. However, the difference would be the convenience on the receiver,” he said.
Western Union has more than 550,000 agent locations in over 200 countries and territories where OFWs can send their remittances back home.
UnionBank, through its fintech arm UBX, earlier enabled customers to make fund transfers to remittance firms such as Cebuana Lhuillier, LBC, Palawan Pawnshop and Express Padala, and Pera Hub.
The Aboitiz-led lender’s net income in the first semester increased 94% to P8.315 billion from the P4.503 billion seen a year earlier. This was attributed to higher earnings from its core businesses and lower provisions for credit losses.
UnionBank’s shares closed at P76.35 apiece on Tuesday, down by 15 centavos or 20% from its previous finish. — L.W.T. Noble