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BPI sees more clients migrating to digital channels

/ 04:12 AM October 30, 2019

Seven out of 10 retail clients of Ayala-led Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) will likely have migrated to digital channels by next year as Southeast Asia’s oldest bank fervently pursues an “omnichannel” strategy to harness technology to serve its vast customer base.

The Philippines is seen as a fertile ground for digital banking. However, banks are increasingly facing disruption from nimble financial technology or fintech firms, especially in the payments and lending space.

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Devising an omnichannel strategy that cuts across all platforms and serves all types of clients, online or offline, is thus seen necessary. “We need to do this to stay relevant. We want to make sure we are part of everything you do every day,” BPI chief operating officer Ramon Jocson said in a briefing on Monday.

To date, 3.6 million or 42 percent of BPI’s retail clients are enrolled in its digital banking platform, and the figure may reach 50 percent by the end of this year. By next year, he said the percentage would likely rise to 70 percent.

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Jocson said BPI might top off the digital banking usage at about 70 percent. “There will always be people who will not go online and it cuts across all ages,” he said, adding that there were people who opted to use only passbooks and did not even have automated teller machines (ATM) cards.

Recognizing that there were other nonbank entities that could undertake selected banking functions more efficiently, Jocson said the strategy would be to consider fintechs as partners and not just competitors. The overall goal is to encourage more customers to use digital platforms, particularly mobile banking, taking advantage of the already high mobile penetration.

“An average Filipino probably has two smartphones. But if you take a look at the per capita penetration of toothbrushes in the Philippines, it’s less than smartphones. So at any one time, there’s somebody out there talking on the phone who hasn’t brushed his teeth,” Jocson said.

BPI’s digital journey includes not just migrating anything analog into digital form but constantly changing and innovating processes, investing in cybersecurity, adopting a mobile-first strategy and thinking of new businesses, among others.

In the last 10 years, BPI chief digital officer Noel Santiago said that BPI’s online usage had grown by 930 percent. Digital transaction volume, on the other hand, has surged by 1,683 percent to 632 million over the same 2008 to 2018 period.

With 3.6 million enrolled users to date, he noted that this was equivalent to the number of train passengers served by Metro Manila’s railways in four days.

With 206 million log-in to new platforms, he noted that this was equivalent to the combined population of the Philippines and Vietnam.

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“We are redefining not the technology but how the customer interacts with us,” Santiago said.—DORIS DUMLAO-ABADILLA

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