The history of banking in the Philippines is a rich one and started during the Spanish colonial period. The first banks were established to help the growing commerce and trade in the islands, but over the decades and with the help of technology, the banking industry has evolved into something that is capable of servicing every Filipino, not just in the Philippines but anywhere in the globe. But how did we get here?
The banking industry in the Philippines started with the establishment of the “El Banco Español Filipino de Isabel II” on August 1, 1851. It allowed the bank to print the country’s first banknotes, the Pesos Fuertes. Other banks were also established since then and provided financial services by accepting deposits and providing loans, but mostly for agricultural, industrial or commercial purposes.
Despite the hardships the country faced, the banking industry flourished over the decades and branches were opened across the country where businesses are booming. Some banks evolved into full diversified universal banks that offer investment and consumer banking services in addition to traditional commercial banking activities. However, the method by which these services are offered haven’t changed – clients are required to visit the bank and do the transaction with the bank personnel in person.
That changed though in 1983 when the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) implemented the first through the wall 24/7 Automated Teller Machine (ATM) in the country.
It became a convenient alternative to getting funds as customers do not need to lineup inside the bank and fill out forms. They can also do their transactions anytime, removing the limits of standard banking hours. This started the trend towards automated banking.
Although most transactions at the time are still cash-based, the bank followed the ATM with the Express Payment System or EPS in 1987 for debit transactions. Customers can simply make a purchase with a swipe of the ATM card, eliminating the hassle of having to fumble through bills and count change. As of writing, there are now more than 45,000 merchants that support EPS.
Before mobile phones became popular, people communicated via landline telephones. BPI saw its potential and decided to make it services accessible through this medium. And in 1991, they launched the Express Phone which is the first local Interactive Voice Response System for financial services in the country.
In 1994, the internet finally became available in the Philippines. Although not yet available in most households during the time, BPI also saw the need that Filipinos will soon manage their funds via the internet in their homes or offices. In 1999, they launched the BPI Express Online which is widely used up to this day.
In 2000, when mobile phones were trending and Filipinos communicated heavily via SMS, BPI launched the Express Mobile which is the first mobile banking service in the Philippines. It allowed customers to make transactions using keywords straight from their phones. BPI followed it with the menu-based Mobile Banking in 2005, in partnership with Globe Telecom.
While ATMs offer a convenient way to withdraw cash, customers still have to lineup to tellers to make over-the-counter deposits. Seeing it as an opportunity, BPI launched the Express Deposit Machine in 2002, which is the first full-function cash deposit machine in the country, allowing to make a cash deposit without the need for forms or direct assistance from the teller.
A few years later, people moved from standard mobile phones to app-based smartphones. Seeing this trend, BPI launched the first version of the BPI Mobile app in 2009, while the second version launched in 2013. Through the combination of the internet, smartphones, and apps, customers can do their banking virtually anywhere.
Although online banking proved to be successful, customers still need to line up in banks for deposits. To make things more efficient, BPI launched the BPI Express Assist or BEA in 2011, allowing customers to input their transactions in the BEA terminal to eliminate the need to fill out slips.
In 2012, they brought the feature online with the launch of BEA Online, the first online branch appointment system in the country. It allowed customers to schedule an appointment via the BPI Express Online website, removing the need for customers to line up and wait for their turn to be serviced.
Investors were also given the online and mobile banking treatment. In 2011, they launched BPI Investments Online, the Philippines’ first full-service online investment facility. From here, clients can monitor their investment portfolio and place subscription and redemption orders anytime through online or mobile banking.
In 2018, 167 years since the bank’s establishment in the Philippines, BPI will launch its new and improved online and mobile banking platforms.
These milestones show how financial institutions can modernize and keep up with the trend by focusing on providing a secure, reliable and convenient banking experience. With that in mind, we can say that banking on ATMs, mobile phones, and computers is just the start.