In 2018, Union Bank of the Philippines (UnionBank) – recognized as a trailblazer with first-in-industry digital solutions that continue to revolutionize banking, incorporated fintech subsidiary UBX as part of its continuing digital transformation journey to harness emerging technologies while innovating on open, embedded finance and digital platforms.
Operated by UnionBank’s UBX since 2019, the i2i platform remains a one-of-a-kind and undisputed Open Finance leader in the country’s digital banking space. Short for “island-to-island, institution-to-institution, individual-to-individual,” i2i is the first of its kind in the country: an Open Finance platform based on distributed ledger technology (DLT) that links financial institutions – from the largest banks to community based financial service providers – to each other; to fintechs and digital platforms; and to the country’s mainstream financial networks.
Through i2i, UnionBank’s UBX brings digital financial services to unbanked and underbanked individuals in financially underserved communities across the country. Leveraging DLT and open finance frameworks gives community based financial service providers such as rural banks, thrifts, and cooperatives access to cutting edge digital banking products and services in a way that is cost effective, secure, and easily adoptable.
Today, i2i is the country’s largest and fastest growing Open Finance and banking-as-a-service network, connecting hundreds of financial institutions and community based financial service providers spanning thousands of branches nationwide, including major remittance centers such as Cebuana Lhuillier, LBC, Palawan Express, and PeraHub across the country.
In a joint venture with Irish financial services technology giant Fexco, i2i Mobile ATM expands the reach of the i2i open finance network to over 1,500 new financial service providers and agents.
Open finance and inclusion even amid COVID-19
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, i2i was critical to a number of initiatives aimed at addressing the most immediate needs of customers resulting from various setbacks including limited transportation and widespread shutdowns of non-essential businesses. To make fund transfers more convenient for Filipinos, especially those most affected by the lockdowns, the i2i network expanded to include major remittance and payment centers across the country.
i2i Mobile ATM brought basic ATM services closer to communities while also providing an additional source of income to businesses especially in far-flung areas of the country. The service was so successful that usage volumes rose by over 3000% in the last six months of 2020.
i2i was also instrumental in UnionBank’s efforts to help the government provide financial aid to Filipinos affected by the pandemic through the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s Social Amelioration Program. Using i2i’s expansive network, UnionBank helped expedite the disbursement of funds under the second wave of the program, making it more convenient for beneficiaries while ensuring their safety.
Even as the country is now well on its way to full recovery, UnionBank and its fintech subsidiary UBX vow to continue leveraging the expansive i2i network and other innovations to help ensure that Filipinos are able to enjoy meaningful digital banking experiences wherever they may be in the country.
“We are doing everything we can to help ease the lives of Filipinos in these trying times. Expanding the open i2i platform to more financial institutions, fintechs, and digital applications makes it easier for everyone to transfer funds to one another, securely and conveniently,” said UnionBank President and CEO Edwin Bautista.
“With our ‘Tech Up Pilipinas’ efforts to promote wide-scale digital transformation throughout the country, we are confident that the Philippines will weather this crisis and emerge more resilient than ever to ensure the renaissance of our nation,” Bautista added.
Recognized all over the world
With i2i as a key component of its COVID-19 initiatives, UnionBank was named second most helpful bank in Asia-Pacific during the COVID-19 crisis in 2020 and the #1 most helpful bank in the Philippines in 2021 according to BankQuality.com. This was based on a survey covering a total 11,000 respondents, with 1,000 each coming from China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Aside from this, i2i has earned numerous other accolades from prestigious award-giving bodies within and outside the country, including the “2020 Best Digital Financial Inclusion Project” at The Asset Triple A Awards 2020; “Silver Anvil for PR Program Directed at Specific Stakeholders” at the 2019 Anvil Awards; and “Operating Model Master for the Philippines” at the 2019 IDC Digital Transformer Awards.
Through UBX and i2i, UnionBank has further solidified its position as a leader in the country’s digital banking and open finance space, a space that the bank has dominated for the past five years. With digital banking and open finance poised to continue their momentum beyond the pandemic, UnionBank will continue to utilize its superior digital banking capabilities to deliver innovation toward an inclusively prosperous Philippines.