UNObank, which counts Singapore-headquartered fintech firm DigibankASIA as one of its primary incorporators, announced securing approval from the central bank of the Philippines to operate a digital bank in the country.
UNObank, which will be entirely regulated under the Digital Banking License framework in the Philippines, becomes one of the first three firms that received digital banking licenses in the Philippines.
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) earlier approved the application of OFBank, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Land Bank of the Philippines, and Tonik Bank.
UNObank will be headed by Manish Bhai as CEO, a career banker and a tech entrepreneur. UNObank founders – Bhai, Kalidas Ghose, and Puneet Gupta – aim to help bridge the financial inclusion gap in the Philippines and eventually Southeast and South Asia.
“Long term, our goal is to bridge the gap to financial inclusion,” says co-founder Manish Bhai. “With UNObank, we are building the first full-spectrum digital bank to service those with unmet financial needs in Southeast and South Asia”.
UNO means ‘one’ and sets the premise for a digital bank that offers one app and one card to enable anyone anywhere in the Philippines to save, borrow, transact, invest, and protect their finances easily, with speed and ease, the digital bank said in an announcement.
The BSP has granted three digital bank licenses, two of which are conversions from previous bank licenses. UNObank is the first to receive the new license entirely under the Digital Banking License framework.
The Philippines has lagged in terms of financial inclusion. Access through digital banks can vastly increase the number of people in the Philippines that have access to borrowings, savings, payments, and other financial services.
According to the BSP’s 2019 Financial Inclusion Survey released in 2020, the country has among the lowest banking penetration in Southeast Asia, as the number of unbanked Filipino adults is estimated at 51.2 million, out of a total adult population of 72 million in 2019.