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UnionBank of the Philippines begins testing digital assets transactions on its mobile app

UnionBank of the Philippines has become the first banking entity in the country to offer digital assets exchange services through its mobile banking application.

According to a report by FinTechNews PH, the feature has been rolled out to selected users and will be open to the general public soon. Through the new feature, customers can now directly purchase and sell Bitcoin from the bank’s app without needing third-party digital currency wallets.

Commenting on the launch, Cathy Casas, head of Blockchain Center of Excellence, Digital Asset Markets, and API Marketplace Group at UnionBank, said the bank firmly believes that blockchain technology is the future of banking. She added that the feature has been in high demand among clients.

“Blockchain is a technology that we think will power the future of banking. At the same time, we also recognise that cryptocurrency has been one of the services that a lot of customers are already looking for, especially the younger generation, and this demand was accelerated by the pandemic,” said Casas.

Henry Aguda, UnionBank’s Senior Executive Vice President, Chief Technology and Operations Officer, and Chief Transformation Officer, added that asides from future-proofing the bank and meeting customer demand, the feature also helps cement the bank’s metaverse ambitions.

“Not only does this help us ensure that the bank is more future-ready, we are also able to serve the needs of our customers who use cryptocurrencies. This is also one of the things that we are working on as we prepare our path towards entering the metaverse,” he said.

Digital assets and regulations increasing in the Philippines

UnionBank first began to make plans to offer digital assets exchange and custody services last year. It applied for and was granted a Virtual Assets Service Provider (VASP) license from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ (BSP) in January.

UnionBank has also pioneered other blockchain technology trends, including becoming the first bank in the country to carry out bond issuance on-chain. The bank has a partnership with homegrown NFT gaming platform Art of Dreams and is looking to expand its metaverse footprint by launching a Metaverse Centre of Excellence in the coming months.

While digital assets and blockchain technology adoption have been on the rise in the Philippines, so have regulations for the industry. In a recent memorandum reported by Bloomberg, the central bank said it is suspending the issuance of licenses to new VASPs for three years.

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