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Digitalized banking: When high-tech meets high touch

When community quarantines were imposed in various parts of the country, many companies found themselves physically cut off from their customers. “High-touch” businesses such as retail, dining, and hospitality were particularly affected. Even the banking industry is not exempted, as it needs face-to-face interaction with the clients to establish trust and confidence.

The good news is that some banks were already leaning towards digitalization long before the pandemic and had been using high-tech platforms to maintain connections with clients during these trying times. One example is the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI).

BPI took advantage of its strong digital infrastructure to help many of its clients transition to the COVID-19 lockdown requirements. It utilized over 100 functionalities in its online banking site and mobile app to allow more than 4 million customers (around half of their total client base) to perform most of their everyday banking transactions digitally.

“Our early foray into digitalization has made us particularly prepared for the challenges of the pandemic,” said Ramon Jocson, BPI Chief Operating Officer and Head of Enterprise Services. “While we had the high-tech aspect covered, a significant part of our business is very much high-touch as it involves interacting with both individual and corporate clients for their investment or business requirements.”


Pre-COVID, BPI’s different business units would frequently hold seminars and fora for clients to introduce the Bank’s products and services that may be relevant to them. Its sales teams and relationship managers also frequently met with clients to inform them of new investment opportunities and to provide consultancy services for wealth management.

“The challenge was in reassuring them through tangible ways that we are, in fact, still their reliable financial partner even in this time of uncertainty,” said Jocson. “It’s about being agile, able to pivot, and adapt to prevailing circumstances and limitations to continue providing them with excellent banking services.”

One way they are doing this is through a fleetwide webinar initiative called the #ECONversationSeries, where each BPI business unit engages its stakeholders in the perfect marriage of high-tech and high-touch banking. Customers can send in their questions, which will either be answered during the webisode or will be tackled by a specialist after.

Mr. Jocson acknowledges that making the digital switch has not entirely been smooth- sailing for some of their high-value customers who are too accustomed to the traditional way of doing things.

“We accommodate them as much as we can, within the limits of Covid-19 restrictions. We understand they may be uncomfortable with the digital age, but they may be surprised by how easy and enjoyable it can be. Once they learn and become more adept with digital learning or banking, they’ll find that they can unlock a bigger, better world for themselves,” he said.

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