“Striving to deliver the best customer experience is a key driver for engagement”

Union Bank of the Philippines (UnionBank), an acknowledged pioneer and leader in digital banking in the country, also aspires to be a great retail bank. With an ambitious new pursuit, the Bank understands that focus in the development and delivery of new customer engagement and acquisition strategies were crucial. In 2021, UnionBank recruited Albert Raymond C. Cuadrante to be its Chief Marketing Officer to help steer the development of a world-class marketing organization that will accelerate the growth and engagement of its customer base.

The seasoned marketing executive brings with him more than 20 years of advertising, marketing, and strategic digital transformation experience. Albert’s career includes stints in one of Asia’s largest food companies Jollibee Foods Corporation as head of digital commerce and customer loyalty; Greenwich Pizza as its President; and at Procter & Gamble where he began his marketing profession. In 2013, he received the Asia Pacific Tambuli CMO of the Year Award.

Albert was all business from day 1 as he delved into learning more about UnionBank, its history, milestones, the ins and outs. With the Bank’s backdrop of being among the industry’s earliest and successful digital transformation, and a full roster of the leading edge services and product offerings, he knew that it was imperative to develop a Master Brand Positioning for UnionBank. This was to serve as the foundation for product value proposition creation that would strengthen the Bank’s brand equity and unify its integrated marketing communications plan.

“Be it individual, retail, big corporate or small businesses, UnionBank has something to offer. How do you position the Bank as the brand of choice in financial services?” asked Albert, “Riding on the momentum of the consumers’ shift to digital which was accelerated during the pandemic, the Bank’s Digital Marketing team developed unique, dynamic and effective marketing campaigns. Its “Heaven” and the follow up “Love” ads truly engaged the public. These helped increased brand awareness for UnionBank from 66% in 2021 to 90% in 2022. Likewise, these resulted to the UB Online app sign-ups by over 30% at the peak of the campaign.” Putting to good use his Management Engineering mindset, the CMO implemented a live and breathe scientific and data analytics approach. Albert institutionalized the Research and Insights function for the Bank to strengthen its consumer and market understanding. The objective was for his teams to sharpen the Bank’s strategies and to keep improving customer experience across channels. “At the end of the day, satisfied and delighted clients will help impact the Bank’s customer engagement and growth strategies.” says Albert.

Alongside this effort, it was essential to get a pulse of the clients’ view about their experience with the Bank. “Would the current customer experience drive them to promote our services or would clients recommend the Bank to their families and peers?” recounts the CMO who led the driving of cross-functional Net Promoter Score (NPS) initiative for UnionBank. “Conversely, do we have unhappy patrons who can impede our growth targets?” questioned Albert resulting in the Bank’s NPS besting even bigger local and global banks based on Bain’s Prism NPS industry study.

Acknowledging the principle of data being the new currency that fuels the future, it was a logical step for Albert’s teams to collaborate closely with UnionBank’s Data Science and Artificial Intelligence (DSAI) center of excellence. “The Bank accelerated customer onboarding and engagement utilizing data science and digital marketing. With the move to more online transactions, the Bank continued to introduce new features and product offerings to further improve customer experience.” The CMO also explains that working with the DSAI team enhanced the Bank’s perspective to increasing customer long-term value. Through this collaborative effort, an increase in the average daily balance for digital account customers by over 30% was realized.

Entrusted also to elevate the Bank’s reputational standing, Albert has been guiding the Corporate Media and Reputation Management, and Consumer Affairs Group to further enhance UnionBank’s image and reputation among consumers, media and business stakeholders. The strategy has been to have a more purposive corporate communications and public relations plan that connects to and magnifies UnionBank’s overall brand purpose and character. Albert notes that half-way into 2022, the Bank’s press releases have already surpassed media pick-ups of the full year of 2021.

Meanwhile, recognizing that micro, small, and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs) are the backbone of the economy Albert shares “UnionBank has positioned itself as a valued partner of the MSMEs. Early on the lender has been at the forefront of helping MSMEs move to digital to address major pain points– having an online presence through UnionBank Global Linker; access to financing via SeekCap, courtesy of the bank’s financial technology subsidiary, UBX; managing cash flows, and enabling digital payments through the MSME Business Banking App, the first MSME platform in the Philippines. This enabled business owners to check their account balances and transactions, pay taxes and utility bills, transfer funds to both local and international banks, and deposit UnionBank and other bank checks, all accessible through their laptop or mobile phone. Another breakthrough was the country’s first mobile check deposit for businesses, providing a more convenient way of doing banking transactions.

In a push for MSMEs to provide better customer experience for its clients, UnionBank developed a new payment platform called UPAY. This is a fully integrated, single platform payment acceptance solution that is already built inside the lender’s MSME Business Banking App. It allows MSMEs to collect payments from their customers, whether it’s through UnionBank Online, InstaPay, debit and credit cards, digital wallets, or over the counter.”

With the suite of solutions for the targeted entrepreneurs now complete, Albert spearheaded “The Power to Grow” campaign to increase SME customer applications and successfully generated over 25% sign-ups. These efforts to uplift the MSMEs have earned notice by international award giving bodies such as the Asiamoney that has named UnionBank the Best Bank for SMEs twice in a row. Asian Banking & Finance also cited UnionBank as the SME Bank of the Year in 2021 at its Retail Banking Awards.

Another key step to its great retail bank aspiration was UnionBank’s successful deal with Citigroup to acquire its consumer banking business in the Philippines. Citi’s announcement to exit the consumer business in the country was announced in April 2021. With top management’s full support, the UnionBank team hit the ground running and prepared for the opportunity and its efforts and collaborative work paid off when by yearend, it was chosen the winning bidder in the Philippines. The deal helps boost the Bank’s credit card business to (at least) Top 3; consumer loans are predicted to grow to 50% from 40% of total loans, resulting to improved margins and recurring revenues. It also complements UnionBank’s strength in home loans, salary loans, and cash management solutions. The transaction also added close to 1 million credit cards and wealth management customers to the Bank’s base and double the volume of its assets under management. This acquisition significantly expanded UnionBank’s business in the higher-end segment of the consumer market.

Now comes the task of integration. The CMO, having led the team’s efforts in the branding, marketing and communication work streams -- is again heading the first 90-day marketing plan after the milestone August 1, 2022 completion of the Citibank consumer business sale. The real work began as UnionBank reached out and welcomed the former Citi clients as its own. The almost 99% retention rate of Citi cardholders and depositors is a most encouraging indicator that things are off to a great start.

Only a year after being hired as a UnionBanker and a chief marketer, Albert knows that to achieve the UnionBank’s goal to become a great retail bank is still a long journey ahead. He adds, “We always strive to deliver the best customer experience across our products, services, and transaction channels as this has become a key driver for customer engagement.”

Just recently, in a vote of confidence in his capability as UnionBank CMO, Albert was appointed as a Marketing Adviser of the Aboitiz Data Innovations (ADI). He is expected to help create a strong market presence in the Philippines in support of the Aboitiz Group’s vision of building a “Techglomerate”.

With Albert at the helm of the bank’s marketing master plan and with the strong support of its top level management, UnionBank is well on its way to be a great retail bank and power the future of banking in the Philippines.

Posted in CLF | 10 Most Inspiring CMOs of 2022Albert Raymond C. Cuadrante, CMO of  UnionBank Profile