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The ARK by UnionBank

Digital Transformation in Design for the Next Gen Businesses in the Philippines


Alwin Aguirre of The City Roamer experiencing digital transformation at The ARK by UnionBankWhen we talk about “Digital Transformation” it’s easy to think about businesses embracing technology for a company’s day-to-day business transaction, streamlining processes, towards improved operations. But now, the transformation goes beyond the back-end and can be seen in physical space. One notable example is The ARK by UnionBank in Ayala Avenue where digital transformation in design can be experienced.

I talked about this innovative banking concept by UnionBank when it launched last month. It’s a concept branch where customers can do banking transactions in a non-traditional manner. In traditional banking, you get your queue number upon entry, sit or line up until a teller or bank officer seated behind a counter or desk, calls your number. In between the waiting and doing transactions you fill out forms to get going.

The ARK by UnionBankAt The ARK, a bank ambassador approaches you upon entry and hands you an iPad where you fill out a form relative to your transaction. Instead of standing on the line or in front of the teller, you’re seated comfortably at a couch while you complete the form and wait for the transaction to be processed.

VR Technology is implemented at The ARK

Through The Ark, a groundbreaking concept brought to life by Micro-D International, Inc. (MDI) and UnionBank of the Philippines, the latter’s vision of becoming the country’s leading digital bank that offers a brand experience as if it’s a tech company with a banking engine has been successfully brought to life.

While waiting, you can even do some work on your laptop with a free cup of coffee as if you’re inside a coffee shop. Or you can also learn more about Union Bank products and services using the interactive kiosks.

Interactive channels that customers can use inside The ARKThe ARK by Union Bank offers a relaxing environment that make you want to stick around even after you’re done with your business. The friendly staff, almost paperless transactions, digital facilities, cozy environment, free wifi and coffee — all this is part of Union Bank’s digital transformation, including the design of the entire space.

Micro-D International (MDI)With my usual mindset of digital transformation, I was surprised with this revelation and learned more about the DX Trinity from the team who made this a successful implementation for the bank. Micro-D International, Inc (MDI) led by chief executive officer Myla Villanueva were tapped for the digital transformation at The ARK by Union Bank. MDI’s chef executive believes as she takes the lead in advocating real Digital Transformation (DX) in the Philippines, one where the DX Trinity—design, the physical space, and the brand’s aspirations—exist in harmony to create a remarkable customer experience.

Success of a business in the future is measured not only in how they utilize technology. More importantly, their growth will be heavily anchored on the depth of interaction and quality experience customers get by interfacing with their brand. Indeed, customers should be at the center of every business. And it’s no surprising that great customer experience should be one of every businesses’ goal.

MDI Chief Executive Officer Myla Villanueva

Micro-D International Chief Executive Officer Myla Villanueva

Ms Villanueva believes that any design which does not prioritize the integration of technology within a physical space and aligns itself with the brand’s promise is an incomplete design. “The challenge for businesses today is how they can integrate their back-end with their front to bring their brand aspirations to life,” the lady executive says. “Look at other innovation pioneers, like Apple or GoPro. Every groundbreaking technology today should take into consideration the human element and interaction and how it complements its surroundings.”

A legacy of transformative thinking

Nowadays, it has become very important for corporations to understand that technology is utilized not just for technology’s sake. It must serve a bigger purpose in their organization as an “enabler.”

For the past 30 years, MDI has partnered with some of the country’s leading corporations to do just that: embrace the DX Trinity to ensure that their brand’s promises are manifested across all contact points with their customers.

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A representation of digital transformationThe first step in MDI’s DX journey is taking the time to understand the aspirations of the business. What is the bigger goal they want to achieve? How do they see themselves as innovators? How will their ideas manifest within their space? Afterwards, the next thing to do is to bring in their fellow innovation advocates.

“We collaborate with the right partners in promoting true Digital Transformation to make sure that the DX Trinity come naturally together. This way, we can ensure that an enterprise can make a significant and lasting impact, while generating the ultimate customer experience,” Villanueva explains.

Digital Transformation (DX) at Play

I experienced Digital Transformation, and DX Trinity at play and working together in MDI’s latest project, The ARK by UnionBank. It’s a groundbreaking retail and banking hub in Makati. Walk the entire stretch of Ayala Avenue and you won’t find a bank like this.

UnionBank Deputy Center Head for Consumer Finance and Chief User Experience Officer Ana Aboitiz-Delgado

UnionBank Deputy Center Head for Consumer Finance and Chief User Experience Officer Ana Aboitiz-Delgado

“The ARK is a bridge between the real-world banking experience and the digital experience, which we have made possible by teaming up with our partners, led of course by MDI,” says Ana Aboitiz-Delgado, deputy center head for Consumer Finance and chief user experience Officer of UnionBank.

The ARK is a refreshing space that uses digital technology to augment an actual banking experience. It has been a very interesting project for MDI simply because of what they were able to accomplish given the kind of vision UnionBank shared with them.

“When we spoke to UnionBank president, Mr Edwin Bautista, he made their aspiration very clear to us: to be the leading digital bank by designing a brand experience like a tech company that has a banking engine,” Villanueva says.

UnionBank Customer Experience Manager Julian Aboitiz

UnionBank Customer Experience Manager Julian Aboitiz

What followed was a long process of going back to the basics and understanding the intricacies and the details of every customer’s point of interaction inside the bank. MDI looked at every process, every engagement, every interaction a customer goes through their journey in a branch.

Then, they researched and experimented on how they could make each process more effective and efficient, and how they can delight the customer by maximizing the DX Trinity.

The result was a space where clients can move around freely, make themselves feel comfortable, order a free latte at the coffee bar, or log on to the Internet to get some work done.

The ARK also becomes an avenue for off-site productivity, encouraging creative tech ideas not just from its partners but from its customers as well. Still, within the space, there is very powerful technology that allows customers to save time, fulfill their usual routines, enjoy a more hassle-free banking experience, and interact with the space positively.

“We’re very delighted at how MDI and our partners have interpreted our vision and brought our ideas to life at The ARK,” Delgado explains. “Look around you and you’ll see that this is not just a bank anymore. It’s now become a ‘third space.”’

The way technology has evolved today, there really needs to be a strong synergy between technology, design, and brand aspirations. This DX Trinity has become the primary pillars for the game-changing work that MDI has been doing because, as Villanueva asserts, any DX journey will cease to make a difference if one of these three goes missing.

Micro-D International and UnionBank Execs

The next wave of successful Philippine enterprises, led by Digital Transformation (DX) advocates Micro-D International, Inc. and UnionBank of the Philippines, is redefining the way brands interact and connect with consumers as we speak. Shown in this photo during last Wednesday’s business roundtable at The Ark—a groundbreaking retail and banking hub concept by UnionBank—at Ayala Avenue Makati are (L-R) Bonsey Design Strategic Director Bhavit Bhatt; UnionBank Customer Experience Manager, Julian Aboitiz; MDI Chief Executive Officer, Myla Villanueva; UnionBank Deputy Center Head for Consumer Finance and Chief User Experience Officer. Ana Aboitiz-Delgado; Brand Architect and fellow DX champion, Amor Maclang; and Bonsey Design Principal Creative and Executive Officer Jonathan Bonsey.

Next generation businesses in the Philippines, particularly the tech-driven ones should really look into digital transformation in design. As advancements in technology becomes available in the country, more customers will look into a better experience. It’s time to redefine the  the way brands interact and connect with consumers to bring great customer experience that promotes brand loyalty and more business.


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Digital Transformation in Design for the Next Gen Businesses in the Philippines
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Digital Transformation in Design for the Next Gen Businesses in the Philippines
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Digital transformation now goes beyond business transactions, process improvement, and digitalization. It has expanded to include design of the physical space to bring great customer experience just like how Micro-D International has done at The ARK by UnionBank.
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The City Roamer
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