The COVID-19 pandemic may be the unintended catalyst that accelerates digital banking, but China Bank sees its branch network to remain as vital in the new normal. At the annual stockholders’ meeting last June 18, China Bank President William C. Whang noted that the Bank is completing its branch expansion program this year using the remaining branch licenses from its Plantersbank acquisition as expansion and enhancement of its digital platforms are ongoing.
China Bank currently has a network of 631 branches nationwide (including 158 branches of China Bank Savings). The plan to open new branches using the remaining seven licenses was put on hold during the lockdown, but will resume once it is allowed.
"We believe that bricks and mortar is still an important channel especially in the provinces where you have a wide population of unbanked," said Whang. "However, we also recognize a segment of the market that demands digital products and services. In support of BSP's Financial Inclusion program, we have organized a Digital Banking Office to spearhead this initiative."
Last April, the Bank appointed Manuel C. Tagaza as China Bank Chief Digital Officer to accelerate the Bank’s digital transformation project.
Whang also noted that China Bank had started its digital transformation long before the virus outbreak. “We are among the first banks to participate in Instapay, among the first to adopt the QR code, and the first to launch RFID loading in our mobile banking app and Beep card reloading via ATM.” He likewise emphasized that the Bank continues to keep its cyber security strong while keeping pace with the increased demand. “We are strengthening our cyber security infrastructure not only for our internal operations but also for our clients who should feel safe doing business with us in the digital space.”
During the ECQ, e-channel transactions surged, particularly China Bank Mobile App. From January to May, China Bank Mobile App users increased 83% and transactions more than doubled. Branch operations were continuous throughout the various states of community quarantine, with over 50% of the branches in service at shortened banking hours. Now, 80% of China Bank branches are open.