Owing to the widespread use of mobile phones in the country and the exponential growth of mobile internet, Philippine banks need to embrace a mobile-first mindset to be more competitive and innovative, according to Bank of the Philippine Islands’ (BPI) chief digital officer Noel Santiago.
“Banks should begin the transformation by capitalizing on new technologies, conducting core tech delayering, fortifying its security safeguards, and having a mobile-first mindset,” he said in his talk during the recently held 2019 BusinessWorld Economic Forum.
This kind of mindset considers mobile devices as main engagement tools to reach customers, rather than just an option.
Based on an IDC market intelligence report, the number of smartphone users in the country have shown double-digit growth of 50 percent and 32 percent, respectively. The trend is expected to continue in the years ahead.
Philippine banks are ripe for digitalization, Santiago said, and there are convenient opportunities to leverage on, given that majority or 95 percent of banking transactions are still done through cash and check.
“Digitalization, including the integration of mobile banking tools, will reduce our cost to serve. There is huge potential for transforming how we deliver our services to clients,” Santiago said.
In fact, these opportunities have already attracted at least 81 fintechs or financial technology companies, as well as boosted the number of e-wallets in the country.
Of this, Santiago added, “We have to understand who these players are, and leverage their product offerings and skillset, then integrate them with our own ecosystem. Collaboration is the best approach to tame the disruption and remain competitive and agile.”
Supporting this mindset is Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, CEO of Ayala Corporation and chairman of BPI, who served as the keynote speaker in the Economic Forum.
“Over the last few years, we have made a deliberate attempt at institutionalizing an innovation mindset across the group. We believe that critical to our future growth and success is the kind of innovative and disruptive thinking that start-ups and young entrepreneurs embody,” said Ayala.
“Transformation requires clarity of vision, courage to stay on the course, and boldness to disrupt yourself and challenge long-held conventions. It certainly won’t be easy, but I believe it is very much possible,” he added.
Traditional to progressive
With the many advances in data infrastructure, Santiago said digitalization will allow banks to streamline digital transactions by incorporating more digital tools to enhance its products and internal processes.
In the past few years, the number of BPI clients doing online transactions has grown to three million. And for the past three years, the bank has booked a total of P11.6 billion in technological spending to ramp up its digital infrastructure.
The future of financial services is expected to become more competitive and comprehensive, with artificial intelligence playing a key role in producing and collecting more data that can be mined for useful insights.
“Banks must continue to innovate. It is a business imperative for banks all over the world, especially in the emerging market where digitalization holds much promise and potential. Banks must do more so that they don’t get left behind,” he said.
For BPI, digital banking will still complement physical branch banking, where clients can experience efficient, frictionless transactions between digital channels and the branches.
“As more and more clients get comfortable with online or mobile banking, we hope to become the most inclusive of banks in the country. We want to make life easier for our countrymen as our services become part of their everyday lives,” said Santiago.