The first fully digital bank branch is now in the Philippines, it’s The ARK by UnionBank. Located at the ground floor of Insular Life Building along Ayala Avenue, the branch has been converted into a concept branch where digital technology is used to serve clients. Once again, UnionBank has proven itself as the technology-leader among the banks in the country.
As a UnionBank depositor, I’ve been to this branch a few times in the past for a few transactions. Seeing the space as I entered definitely delivered a positive impression on me. There are comfortable couches, tables and chairs, that the look of a cafe. Unlike the usual bank, you won’t find a counter where you have to transact with a teller. The overall look has that hip modern vibe.
“The ARK was established by UnionBank to address the common pain points in banking. Falling in line, getting a number before being attended to, spending a lot of time in the bank which could have been used in, otherwise, more productive endeavors. It is also meant to satisfy the diverse and changing needs of our customers,” explained UnionBank President and Chief Operations Officer (COO) Edwin R. Bautista.
Bautista explained that The Ark provides an interactional experience rather than a transactional space. It could also be used as a 3rd space for different communities to get together. The ARK, as a concept branch/ “lab,” also serves as a platform for the clients to co-create an ideal banking experience by closely looking into what the clients’ needs and wants when it comes to banking.
“The ARK provides a service unlike any other. There are no lines, no numbers, hardly any forms to fill up, just highly-trained bank ambassadors ready and happy to give personalized service to each and every client. Every client here receives the proverbial VIP service,” Bautista adds.
At The ARK by UnionBank, a client is treated like a guest, welcomed by the bank ambassador who hands him a tablet to select his transaction. The bank ambassador may usher the guest to the coffee area where he could enjoy his espresso while waiting for the bank ambassador to facilitate his transaction. The guest will also be able to maximize his time while at The ARK and do some work as the branch is equipped with high-speed internet. Customized and comfortable seats are provided for The ARK guests.
For someone dealing with digital technology all the time, the idea of this kind of service is really nice. Indeed, digital natives would find The ARK as the perfect bank branch that fits their lifestyle. For non-digital natives, however, The ARK by UionBank serves as their bridge that comfortably leads them from traditional to digital banking.
UnionBank Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Justo A. Ortiz said that it should not come as a surprise for UnionBank to come up with The ARK, which is seen as the bank of the future. “UnionBank trailblazed digital banking in the Philippines and we continue with our efforts to use technology and enhancing digital banking capabilities in order to provide the best customer experience for our clients,” Ortiz said.
Indeed, UnionBank has been part of my journey in my digital lifestyle. I remember EON Card, one of the bank’s products, which is the first debit card I used for verifying my Paypal account. It allowed me to provide online payment solutions in my first online shop venture. UnionBank has recently been awarded as the Best Digital Bank at the Asiamoney Banking Awards 2017, held at The Ritz-Carlton in Beijing, China, last September 26, validating its position as the best digital bank in the country.
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Deputy Governor Chuchi Fonacier graced the launch of The ARK by UnionBank and hailed the bank for its future-ready innovations which are at par with international banking standards. Fonacier said that BSP believes in financial technology as both an opportunity and a challenge to the banking sector. BSP records show that 25% of current bank clients use mobile banking technologies in their transactions and this number is predicted to grow exponentially over the years.
“Our banks need to be equipped with sound digital strategies for them to cope up with these digital innovations to better serve their clients. BSP will also be aggressively pursuing reforms to support our banks through an enabling regulatory environment,” Fonacier.
I learned that The ARK by UnionBank will soon be rolled out in other branches. I can’t wait for that to happen in the branch near me. It’d be awesome to experience banking this way on a regular basis. Using digital technology to augment an actual banking experience is a step to the right direction.