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    Empowering the Filipinos in the New Digital Normal

Since way before, UnionBank has started the journey to build the right foundations. UnionBank was able to transform from physical to digital, enabled us to do fully digital banking services. During the pandemic, Huawei enabled UnionBank's Service-Driven Network Transformation.

Union Bank of the Philippines (UnionBank) started operations in 1981, became a commercial bank in 1982, and was granted a universal banking license by the Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas on the same year. Today, it is one of the largest universal banks in the Philippines, serving nearly 4 million customers, of which 1.6 million are mobile banking customers. The bank has always been among the first to embrace technological innovations to empower its customers. In 2016, UnionBank embarked on a Digital Transformation Journey, making a promise that ‘no one gets left behind’ and reinforced its commitment to delivering superior customer service and promoting inclusive prosperity in the Philippines. UnionBank’s Digital Transformation Strategy reinforces their commitment to embracing the future of banking, as the Philippines’ leading digital bank, to best serve the growing needs of Filipinos everywhere.

UnionBank has consistently been recognized as one of Asia’s top leading companies, ranking among the country’s top universal banks in terms of profitability and efficiency. Over the years, the bank has garnered a record-breaking number of awards recognizing the UnionBank in the areas of transformation of people and culture, including IDC’s Asia-Pacific Digital Trailblazer Award 2020, The Asset’s 3-time Digital Bank of the Year and Euromoney’s 2018 Best bank Transformation in Asia. Furthermore, in 2020, UnionBank was declared “Bank of the Year 2020” in the Philippines by The Banker, widely regarded as the industry standard for global banking excellence.

Key Challenges

UnionBank aims to improve what it calls "prosperity inclusion" by attracting the underserved and unbanked. Key to this objective is its digital transformation. As a result of the pandemic, most people now work and spend more time at home, this has fueled a higher demand for online banking services.

Network challenges: UnionBank saw their mobile banking customer base increase by 160% during the pandemic. This requires the simultaneous operation of a faster, more seamless network. As UnionBank continues its digital transformation journey, their network architecture must also evolve in order to provide secure 24/7 availability, six sigma delivery and T+0 service delivery.

In lieu of a majority of their campus networks and a number of their DCN components being about to reach End-of-Support, it was timely to refresh their network infrastructure to be scalable, highly reliable and future proof. As the existing equipment was not providing the latest technology, a software defined technology with artificial intelligence was necessary to support the influx in the bank’s demand of pure digital customers.

Huawei Solution

Huawei allotted time, energy and determination to learn the pain points of UnionBank’s current network status and planned the most advanced and necessary adjustments to its campus data centers and branch network architectures to successfully implement network reconstructions and upgrades. Huawei designed an intelligent network architecture based on the best practice approach in terms of architectural scalability, reliability and manageability.

After a cautious and vigilant learning of the existing network, coupled with the full scoping and high level assessment of UnionBank’s requirements, Huawei deployed an end-to-end network solution that included:

1. Active-Active SDN Data Center Network Solution

2. DCI Network Solution

3. SD-Campus Solution

4. Intelligent O&M Solution - iMaster NCE-FabricInsight and iMaster NCE-CampusInsight, integrating and upgrading the exit user/account authentication and network management.

Huawei has implemented the DCN CloudFabric solution to offer the intelligent SDN network to achieve automated service delivery. The iMaster NCE-Fabric automatically delivers configurations with the simulation of each process on end-to-end networks based on the logical networking on the DC platform and provides flexible computing, network, load balancing and security. In addition, this has achieved and enhanced capabilities of resource pools to provide cloud services and implement the automated delivery of resources and capabilities. This outlines the Huawei DCN solution based on two active Data Center structures with a VMWare ESXi based virtualization environment of UnionBank.

The campus network architecture proposed to UnionBank uses a typical two-layer or collapsed core (access- -core) tree topology in which Free Mobility will be enabled. A secured solution approach is deployed at the Internet edge, wide area network (WAN), and data center edges for complete protection. Resiliency has been addressed as well by the provision of a fully redundant solution, especially at the core layer.

Customer Benefits

Financial institutions are increasingly leveraging virtualization and cloud technologies to improve their business efficiency, processes, and competitiveness. In order to achieve this, the foundation in which the network lies, whether virtualized, on cloud or traditional, should be reliable, secure and future-proof. These are all factors that were considered in building a transformed Huawei network for UnionBank. With the rollout of Huawei solutions to UnionBank’s network, many benefits have been achieved and realized through the positive impact on business operations. Below are the key benefits:

1. Fully redundant Data Center and Campus Network – ensuring high reliability of the network and the expectation of no service interruptions.

2. Intelligent SDN Architecture – leveraging the new technology of software defined network to eliminate manual processes.

3. AI ready network – powered by the revolutionary AI Explicit Congestion Notification and Intelligent Lossless algorithm.

4. Ultra-broadband and elasticity - meeting smooth evolution requirements to enable the Bank’s digital transformation.

5. 100% network visibility and automated O&M – resulting in a predictable and easy to manage environment.

“Since way before, UnionBank has started the journey to build the right foundations. UnionBank was able to transform from physical to digital, enabled us to do fully digital banking services. During the pandemic, Huawei enabled UnionBank’s Service-Driven Network Transformation.” Said by Mr. Henry Rhoel R. Aguda, Chief Technology and Operations Officer and Chief Transformation Officer, UnionBank.

Future Prospect

“We need to continue with our digital transformation amid the 4th Industrial Revolution”, said UnionBank President and CEO Edwin Baustista. “Building on our strong digital momentum, we already have a blueprint to build Ark 2.0 – a smart branch that leverages on world-class 5G technology for seamless connectivity with IoT (internet of things)-enabled devices.”

To meet the requirements of service expansion and secure operations, UnionBank will continuously improve and upgrade their existing data and disaster recovery center to ensure that the devices in the campus and data center are up to standard and are meeting the constantly changing demands of the network. Simultaneously, Huawei will continue to provide the best service through the latest technology to help UnionBank achieve their digital transformation.

Click here to explore more industrial digital transformation stories from the Intelligent IP Pioneers webpage.