Banking in the new normal

Digital payments enable the rise of community economy.

The pandemic provided the stimulus for many people to go digital, contactless, and paperless. The ECQ and fear of being infected gave rise to a thriving hyper-local economy characterized by neighborhood and community marketplaces, barters and home deliveries. How many of us have taken up new skills such as baking? How many of us purchased home-cooked meals from a neighbor selling their specialty? How many of us transformed their businesses from physical to online overnight, and this includes training classes from management to painting and Zumba?

A recent SWS survey reveals that with no vaccine in sight, 87 percent of Filipinos remain anxious and afraid of getting infected, and thus will continue to practice social distancing, avoid crowded places, constantly wear masks and regularly wash their hands.

So what does this mean for banks? And what could banking in the new normal mean for Filipinos? Three key observations in consumer behavior give us a clue.


During this time, what supports community economy is the ability to pay and move funds seamlessly, digitally. In the past, a number of Filipinos tried to avoid online and mobile banking because security and safety were a concern.

Given that many people had to stay at home, we saw a spike in enrolments in digital banking and use of electronic transfers and payments, which became a saving grace for many. Thanks to the BSP’s pursuit of financial inclusion, which gave birth to Instapay and Pesonet, bank-to-bank transfers can be done swiftly and easily. The waiver of transaction fees during the ECQ also reduced friction costs and encouraged more Filipinos to take advantage of this convenience.

So where do we go from here? Qurantine measures have now been relaxed, allowing more businesses to operate and the economy to start recovering. But do we expect habits to return to pre-ECQ?


We have observed more Filipinos prefer to have ready access to cash and not tie down funds to anything long-term. Those who maintain investments go for shorter tenors and opt to put their funds in less volatile instruments. Those averse to risks prefer deposits, particularly regular savings or short-tenor time deposits. What makes deposits particularly attractive at this time?

A savings or deposit account has become more functional than ever before. Not only can you earn interest and safe keep your money with the bank, you can also pay bills, buy stuff, transfer money digitally. And it is as easy as scanning a QR code or inputting a deposit account number. It also offers you the safety of not having to hold paper bills and handle coins, minimizing the risks of transmitting the virus through physical exchange. It is also convenient as you do not have to also leave home to pay utilities over the counter. With digital cash, there is no need to bring wads of bills or carry coins because you can pay or get paid the exact amount, down to the last centavo.

A significant number of our clients (at BPI Family Savings Bank) have begun to enroll in mobile and online banking. Now, over half of our clients transact via mobile or online — from paying bills, transferring funds, loading prepaid phones and e-wallets, remitting cash, and subscribing and redeeming investment funds. As clients began to feel comfortable going digital due to the convenience and enhanced security of a one-time password per transaction, we saw a surge in transactions via mobile and online. Digital transactions now account for 90 percent of the bank’s total transactions.


In the past, traffic made it difficult for people to meet and interact. Visiting a branch may require at least half a day. These days, however, the availability of virtual meeting technologies — such as Webex and Zoom — has made for a more engaging exchange of ideas and sharing of knowledge. Despite being virtual, it has become more up close and seemingly more personal, while face-to-face has taken on a different dimension.

The bank has conducted a number of webinars for its clients and business partners in the past two months. We have been able to more effectively reach out to more people and engaged them in a more animated manner. The positive feedback we received on these webinars only reinforce the ability of technology to connect and bring people together.

While digitalization allows for efficiency and productivity, what remains at the core of banking is building a long-term relationship characterized by mutual trust. The bank’s professional cadre of financial advisors—with the depth of expertise and breadth of knowledge to help Filipinos achieve their dreams and weather this crisis—was developed over decades of experiencing and helping the country progress through boom and bust.

When things stabilize and the pandemic finally ends, banking in the country will have changed in a fundamental way. There’s going to be more digitalization, but the physical aspect is going to enhance relationships even more.

After all, we believe banking for the new normal is still about people and nation-building, for a better Philippines. #WeHealAsOneFamily