How RCBC emerged as the fastest digital trailblazer in PHL

By BusinessMirror

Taguig City, Philippines – Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) continues to dominate the fintech landscape in the country by being the fastest growing bank in the country after it leaped from 8th in 2018 to 5th in 2022 in the list of the Philippines’ largest privately owned universal banks in terms of assets. 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, RCBC embarked on an ambitious journey of transforming its primary banking services into digital not only to accommodate the need for secure contactless banking but to champion financial inclusion in disadvantaged and far-flung communities. RCBC’s mission is also anchored on the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Digital Payments Transformation Roadmap that seeks to bank 70% of adult Filipinos and digitally transform 50% of retail financial payments. 

RCBC launched and scaled the country’s many digital first in the banking industry such as the first digital concierge, the first investment management account and unit investment trust fund account opening via digital through RCBC’s mass affluent mobile app Pulz, the world’s first multilingual financial inclusion application in Taglish and Cebuano – RCBC Diskartech, and the largest network of grassroots-oriented and bank-agnostic ATMs – RCBC ATM Go. 

This concoction of “Innovations with Empathy” is spearheaded by Lito Villanueva, Executive Vice President and Chief Innovation Inclusion Officer of RCBC. Villanueva and his team crafted a contextual banking strategy based on data analytics and leveraged on artificial intelligence (AI) to better understand the Philippine financial landscape and offer banking solutions that are relevant, accessible, and empowering.

RCBC Pulz is the most advanced digital banking application in the market to date with an AI-powered service that assists consumers in cross-selling and upselling processes. The application caters to the mass affluent by offering hyper-personalized services focused on savings, deposits, cardless withdrawals, credit card management, online check deposits, time deposits, loans, unit investment trust fund (UITF) investments, foreign currency exchange, bills payments, and mobile loading. With its widest array of services, the application aims to create a boundless banking experience for its consumers.

Catering to the most geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas by working with the Department of Social Welfare and Development and other national government agencies, RCBC ATM Go is the largest network of bank-agnostic, last mile, and sim-powered mobile-point-of-service ATMs covering 100% of the country. By achieving presence in all 82 provinces, 95% of its consumer base are rural Filipinos. With financial inclusion and empowerment at the core of its development, RCBC ATM Go’s transactions are 65% related to the government’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps). 

By focusing on low-income and underserved Filipinos, RCBC DiskarTech was recognized as the Best Disbursement Partner by the Social Security System. The application enabled a skyrocketing disbursement of Php 6 billion to pensioners, Php 3 billion to individual members, and Php 955 million to employers. The world’s first multi-lingual application, which is accessible in Taglish and Cebuano, eases bank onboarding processes by recognizing both primary and secondary I.D.s and offers the most affordable bank transfer rate of Php 8.00. RCBC Diskartech is also a one-stop-shop as users can pay bills, claim remittances, accomplish cardless withdrawals, load phones and gaming wallets, acquire insurance, and access livelihood opportunities. RCBC DiskarTech generated a 145% surge in transaction volume in September 2023 versus the same period last year.

These three highly innovative digital solutions are part of RCBC’s massive financial inclusion campaign and the first phygital or physical-digital banking solution – RCBC Moneybela Barangayan Banking. By leveraging on the highly-advanced features of the applications, RCBC was able to increase rural bank onboarding and financial literacy in over 13,000 barangays all over the country by strategically partnering with local government units and national government agencies. The Moneybela initiative strives to bridge the gap between banking services and underserved communities, with the goal of providing financial access to those who have traditionally been excluded from the banking system. In terms of seven-year Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR), RCBC ATM Go exhibited an 87% surge, while RCBC Pulz (formerly RCBC Digital) showed a significant 113% growth.

These digital innovations earned RCBC an array of highly coveted international awards such as the Gartner Eye on Innovation Award (the only Philippine bank to be awarded), the first global bank to be awarded ‘The Challenger’ by YouTube, and four-peat ‘Best Bank for Digital’ award by Asiamoney. RCBC was also recently named Best Bank for Customer Service in the national Philippine Best Customer Service 2023 survey conducted by the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Statista, with ratings based on accessibility, communication, and professional competence; and Grand Champion for Digital Payments and Financial Inclusion by the Bankers Institute of the Philippines.

The impressive numbers and global recognition that RCBC has reaped in recent years attracted Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC), one of Japan’s largest megabanks, to further invest in the company. In 2021, SMBC, invested Php4.48 billion in RCBC for a 4.99% stake. In November 2022, RCBC’s Board approved SMBC’s increased shareholding to 20.00%, infusing Php27.13 billion (about USD 487.14 million) of new CET1 capital into the bank.

When the man leading the team behind RCBC’s impressive digital metamorphosis was asked about the bank’s recipe for digital success, Villanueva humbly said that it is all in the mind.

“Our focus was not on technology but on harnessing and developing a cultural mindset. Filipinos are inherently creative. The best word to describe us would be – engineers of imagination, implementers, innovators. Our journey started by looking within and asking, what is the banking world missing? We saw that many Filipinos remained unbanked and underserved despite the prowess and skills of our workforce. It was through recognizing the power of our ideas that we started and continued our digital transformation. We now witness and experience its results with remarkable speed and scale,” Villanueva said.

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