A Shift in the World of Finances

Lito Villanueva, Executive Vice President, Chief Innovation & Inclusion Officer, RCBC

Lito Villanueva, Executive Vice President, Chief Innovation & Inclusion Officer, RCBC

Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) is not the number one universal bank in the Philippines, yet it has not prevented us from acting like it.

When the COVID-19 pandemic started wreaking havoc not only to public health institutions but also to the economyof our country, I could only imagine the scrambling in many boardrooms, or rather, in virtual executive meetings.

The onus to shift many business processes and services to digital was suddenly on all our shoulders.

Pre-pandemic, a lot of banks in the Philippines have been what we would call “traditional.” These were institutions that are still largely brick and mortar in their operations.RCBC was no exception, and we recognized that earlier on.Back then, we were already working on digital banking projects that we were keen on seeing through in the long run. The self-awareness, willingness to adapt to change, and dedication to work on the long-term hurdles carried us through the worst of times. These principles are also helping us grow and even thrive during this crisis.

Having had the vision to make digital transformation a priority, we were already past the basics when the pandemic hit. We were already going beyond what was expected, finding solutions to the banking disruption created by the pandemic.

When community quarantine and health protocols kept people distanced from each other and limited in-person transactions, we revved up our mobile banking and readily mobilized our pre-positioned ATM Go terminals to seamlessly tap into our wide network of partnerships with mostly small and provincial financial institutions and retail stores to make banking possible even in the far-flung areas of our archipelago.

The need to reach the underbanked and the underserved was highly important. Contextual banking played a vital role in helping us make this possible. Given the make-up of the Philippine market, there was no one-size-fits-all digital banking solution. This led us to organizing our mobile apps to cover all bases: The RCBC mobile app targets the bank and the digital savvy, while RCBC’s DiskarTech app was designed for the mass market: mostly the unbanked and those uninitiated in digital banking. The app covers end-to-end financial solutions at your fingertips.

Knowing who we want to serve and how we want to serve them allows us to tailor-fit our innovations based on the needs of the market. RCBC mobile app launched more than 15 digital features, including in-app UITF placement, mobile check deposit, and the first ever digital concierge in a mobile banking app. Beyond accessibility, we provided customers with an array of products and services they can avail of without going to the bank branches. For DiskarTech customers, we started with probably the least techie aspect—the language of the entire interface that was in Taglish, the everyday vernacular, a first in the country.

When DiskarTech was launched at the height of the pandemic last year, the reception was overwhelming, with the app garnering a million downloads in just a little over a month since it was rolled out. What does this tell us? People will not hesitate to adapt to the digital shift if you give them access to the right tools. In fact, it’s the people from the provinces who are using DiskarTech. Without the jargons and the formality of traditional banks that tend to intimidate, customers are able to enjoy digital banking with ease. This also encourages others to get onboard and use the app. The app set the trend for many other players who now employ a mix of Taglish in their mobile apps and marketing collaterals.

Our latest data show a spike in cardless ATM withdrawal by a whopping 1,856% in terms of value, with the change in volume reaching 1,308%, compared to last year’s. These numbers are indicative of how pushing for the digital shift actually
impacts our goal of financial inclusion. We never had to choose between financial inclusion and digital acceleration from the very beginning.

More features are now being added to the app as new partnerships are launched each week. Through the help of the government and the private sector, our goal of aiding the Filipino during the pandemic is being realized, and new goals are being accomplished as well. Our push for financial literacy is now in the agenda of the country’ leading messaging app, Viber. We have also partnered with government agencies to include employees, workers, and even students in our financial literacy programs.

In roughly 10 months, the app has been downloaded by more than 4 million people, with close to 3 million of them registered users. They hail from all of the 81 provinces of the Philippines—the widest reachby a local universal bank in the Philippines through a digital platform within five months. These achievements are made even more meaningful by the recognitions we have received: among them being names best digital bank by the prestigious Asiamoney and Alpha Southeast Asia awards.

We weren’t the number one, and we acted like we were number one; and so perhaps, people ended up seeing us as that.

At our core, we are an organization trying our best to empower the Filipino to become the best in every way he can.

I guess this is proof that when we aim for the higher good, we never miss the mark.The digital acceleration is unstoppable, and there will be many more challenges along the way for sure.We will just keep on acting our best, so we can equip the Filipinos with the best tools in this digital banking era.

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