Union Bank ups MSME lending

MANILA – Union Bank of the Philippines (Union Bank) is heeding the government’s push for increased lending to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), especially during this trying times, through its online lending platform, SeekCap.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) now considers as part of banks’ reserve requirement loans extended to MSMEs to support both the small businesses and the banking sector.

UnionBank chief mass market and financial inclusion executive Chut Santiago told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) that they target to help small entrepreneurs remain afloat without going out to apply for this product.

“The loans can be applied online and processed digitally,” he said.

SeekCap is a joint venture between UnionBank’s fintech unit UBX and Ping An Insurance (Group) Company of China, Ltd.’s associate company, OneConnect Financial Technology Co. Ltd.

Relatively, UnionBank, in a statement sent to PNA, said it “will continue to focus on growing its retail customers through digital channels, to utilize “fully-digital loan engine with alternative credit scoring capabilities to extend credit to platform users, and to “continue ventures in innovation and launch multiple start-ups catering to retail and SME segments”.

It said that since the declaration of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon last March 16, the bank registered a ten-fold rise of digital customers compared to pre-ECQ level.

“Our digital fund transfers rose PHP1 billion in March 2020 compared to year-ago levels,” it said without giving out additional figures.

Also, UBX, through its i2i platform for rural banks has started to link rural bank members to its new network that include LBC, PeraHub, and Cebuana Lhuillier branches all over the country.

UBX, in a statement, said the blockchain-powered i2i network allows customers of the member-rural banks to send funds and payments to over 11,000 locations around the country.

UBX Philippines Chief Executive Officer (CEO) John Januszczak said this additional tie-up lessens people’s need to travel especially during the ECQ period.

He explained that “activity is the main focus for the year for i2i”.

“Good news is despite the ECQ, we are forecasting higher transactions this year. Activity has not been dampened amidst the pandemic, in fact the opposite is happening. We’re seeing more transactions this quarter vs the whole of last year,” he said.

He said they recorded 1,126 transactions this quarter alone from 807 in 2019.

He, however, noted that inclusion of additional banks and sales were affected by the lockdown “but just a dip”.

“To date, we have onboarded 54 RBs/coops (rural banks/cooperative banks) in i2i,” Januszczak said, citing that “two new members were virtually training during ECQ”.

He said inclusion of LBC, PeraHub, and Cebuana Lhuillier to their system increases the remittance outlets using the i2i platform by about 4,000.

He said they will include Palawan Express to their system “very soon”.

“Aside from that we are looking at partnering and onboarding not just rural banks into the network this year but also other fintechs,” he said.

Januszczak said will also release very soon a “developer portal to the public and that should help us drive activity as well on the platform”.

He said they are currently rolling out to rural banks and partner merchants the mobile automated machines (ATMs), which allows customers to “to do balance inquiry and withdraw money using a very mobile and handy device vs a bulky ATM machine.”

“Soon we’ll be adding a loans origination and account opening component to this feature,” he added. (PNA)

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