Union Bank of the Philippines Looks to Becomes Nation’s First to Offer Crypto Services

Union Bank of the Philippines plans to become the first in the country to offer trading and custodial services for cryptocurrencies.

The custodial services for digital assets will also cover tokenized bonds, according to Cathy Casas, head of the bank’s blockchain and application programming interface group. Switzerland’s Metaco will provide the system for Union Bank to manage its digital asset operations. The bank was also the first to launch its own stablecoin in 2019, which helped facilitate local remittance payments. Late last year, Commonwealth Bank became the first in Australia to offer crypto trading and custody. 

Casas believes the average Filipino investor likely holds around 1-2% of their personal assets in cryptocurrency. Because many crypto investors are young people, some of whom earn tokens from play-to-earn virtual games, she expects that figure to rise to 3-5% within five years assuming market stability. “It’s a way to future-proof our banking business,” Casas said

She estimates that roughly 5% of the local population have dabbled in cryptocurrencies, which is in line with the global average according to data from Binance. “We are making efforts to educate our clients also via social media, making sure that they are safe,” Casas added.

Crypto critics

However, cryptocurrencies have not been without their critics in the South Asian nation.

Central bank Governor Benjamin Diokno cautioned against cryptocurrencies. Since he believes they are “very vulnerable” to illicit activities, such as money laundering and terrorist financing, he warns that they could ultimately “pose a danger to the financial system.” 

As cryptocurrencies surge in popularity around the world, other authorities in the region are taking steps to assert some control. Earlier this week, the Monetary Authority of Singapore issued guidelines banning the promotion of cryptocurrencies to the general public. The guidelines also led to the closure of cryptocurrency ATMs throughout the country.

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