Saturday, March 2, 2024

iTHINK | Change, reinvention, and standing the test of time

The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus said that “the only thing constant is change”.

While many things have indeed changed since 500 BC, this particular quote of his has remained remarkably relevant throughout the millennia, being both a testament to its truth and to its own irony.

Many things have changed, accelerated in large part by scientific advancements and the democratization of education and information, and a decreased dependence on religious institutions and belief. The more educated people become, the more they demand change.

In some countries and cultures, the societal changes have been wider-ranging and more substantial. Countries like the United Kingdom, which once criminalized homosexuality, have legalized gay marriage and recognizes the fluidity of genders.

Many sectors bristle at some of the changes, and you can see quite fervent public opposition to matters affecting private rights, such as divorce or reproductive health. Remarkably, the Philippines is only one of two countries (the other being Vatican City) that still does not have a legal divorce procedure.

Perhaps the only thing as constant as change is people’s resistance to change. I like to think of change as a process – a long and winding road that we all must take to achieving our true purpose, destiny, or state.

Openness to change and the willingness to reinvent ourselves are absolutely key to remaining relevant. As my employer, BPI, celebrates its 170th year as the first bank in the Philippines and Southeast Asia, we’ve done quite a bit of reflection on how the institution has managed to survive and thrive through ages.

We are a bank that has aggressively reinvented itself and, in many instances, the local banking landscape. When our leaders back in the ‘80s saw the emergence of the ATMs abroad, they were able to correctly appreciate how Filipinos would also embrace the convenience offered by 24/7, self-service banking.

The same goes with online banking which BPI helped pioneer in the country at the turn of the millennium. As Filipinos became fully immersed in their smartphones, we have taken a mobile-first approach to allow us to serve them anytime and anywhere.

According to the Fintech and Digital Banking 2025 report by Backbase and IDC, digital banking in the Asia Pacific (APAC) is set to be widely adopted with over three in five customers (63%) willing to make the switch to neobanks and challenger banks in the next five years.

The report also stated that incumbent banks across APAC are faced with the pressing need to up the ante on digital-first banking due to intensified customers’ need for availability, access, and control of digital channel interactions.

Hence, we continue to reinvent ourselves in that direction – listening more intently and focusing on the evolving customer needs for convenience, security, and financial wellness in this era of digital banking.

While our reinventions may be the most visible element of our longevity, I would also like to give due regard to the equally important albeit subtler forces that have kept us going throughout the years.

Every reinvention and every innovation we’ve made has been underpinned by our commitment to bring value to our stakeholders. Everything we have ever done has been in the best and long-term interest of our customers, employees, communities, and country.

I think the secret then, for standing the test of time is a delicate balance of knowing the right time to change, the right things to change, and the things that must hold true.

May we all have the wisdom to know these and the courage to do so.

Stay safe, everyone!

The author is the vice president and head of corporate affairs & communications of BPI and is concurrently the executive director of BPI Foundation


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