Blockchain initiative seeks to link rural banks to PH financial system

Global blockchain firm ConsenSys has announced its partnership with UnionBank of the Philippines to establish the country’s first financial technology product based on Ethereum that can execute and settle domestic remittances to and from rural banks in the Philippines.

Project i2i, an Ethereum-based payment network between rural banks in the Philippines, stands for “island-to-island,” “institution-to-institution”, and “individual-to-individual” reflecting UnionBank’s ambition to integrate rural banks into the domestic financial system for the first time.

In early 2018, ConsenSys trained UnionBank’s tech team on how to develop blockchain solutions for issues particular to domestic remittances, which also involved user research and business analysis conducted in Cantilan, a rural village in the Surigao province.

ConsenSys’ new Blockchain Business Cloud solution, Kaleido, has been quietly piloted by UnionBank, the first major financial institution both domestically and globally to adopt this Ethereum-based solution.

Since then, UnionBank and ConsenSys delivery teams have joined forces to develop the MVP for Project i2i, piloting and testing with five rural banks in the Philippines. UnionBank is planning to onboard more rural banks and continue piloting the solution throughout the end of the year.

ConsenSys was selected as the technology partner for the project due to its expertise in developing the core components, applications, and enterprise solutions for the Ethereum ecosystem’s proprietary products and services which were directly relevant to the development of Project i2i, and its previous experience advising on the development of similar payment projects around the world such as with the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the South African Reserve Bank.

When looking at the larger picture, Project i2i also presents significant benefits from the point of view of financial inclusion.

Enabling domestic transaction flows in rural areas can uplift business activities and improve the livelihood of entire communities. The project can also be considered a stepping stone for the introduction of more sophisticated financial services in rural areas.

For UnionBank and the wider financial system in the Philippines, the introduction of Project i2i provides an opportunity to connect and integrate the rural banks into the digital transaction flows of the market, enabling a capillary network for “last mile” service delivery in rural areas which could have a significant business impact.

“Our team was inspired to harness blockchain in order to reach farther into our rural communities of the Philippines,” Justo Aboitiz Ortiz, chairman of the board of UnionBank, said. “Many people are still financially excluded and we’re looking to change that. In partnership with ConsenSys and powered by Kaleido, we successfully accelerated Project i2i into active pilot without the complexity and cost of starting from scratch.”

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