UnionBank of the Philippines
Digital banking, consumer banking, commercial banking, mutual funds, insurance, private banking, and credit cards
UnionBank of the Philippines (UnionBank) started operations in 1981 and became a commercial bank on January 19, 1982. In July 1992, UnionBank was granted the license to operate as a universal bank. In 2016, the bank embarked on a digital transformation initiative focused on innovation to best serve the growing needs of Filipinos. Today, UnionBank is synonymous with digitisation in the banking sector and is determined to make banking simple, secure, and safe across the Philippines.
Being in a highly regulated industry and with ever-evolving cyberthreats, Joey Rufo, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Security Officer and Data Protection Officer, wanted a security partner who could scale to UnionBank’s demands for increased cybersecurity risk management and, furthermore, one who could identify, prevent, and detect threats in real time.
With eyes set on becoming the leading digital bank in the Philippines, UnionBank had the vision to improve and increase financial inclusion within the country while going above and beyond what was mandated by the financial regulators at the same time. UnionBank has come a long way since it began its digital transformation program. “When we started this journey, less than 20% of the population had a bank account and an overwhelming number of Filipinos had not even stepped into a bank,” notes Joey. “While we were amongst the top 10 banks here, we wanted to establish ourselves as top of mind in terms of client base and choice. Our digital transformation initiative has scripted the ensuing change, as it encouraged more Filipinos to enter the formal banking sector.”
UnionBank has always been among the first to embrace technological innovations to empower its customers in the future of banking. It has consistently been recognised as one of Asia’s digital trailblazers, ranking among the country’s top universal banks in terms of profitability and efficiency. Over the years, UnionBank has garnered a record-breaking number of awards and recognition, such as the Most Recommended Retail Bank in Asia-Pacific by BankQuality.com; 5-time Digital Bank of the Year by The Asset Triple A; Asia Pacific’s Digital Trailblazer by IDC Asia Pacific, and the Top 1 of Most Helpful Banks in the Philippines during COVID-19 by BankQuality.com. UnionBank stands firm in its promise to power the future of banking through “Tech-Up Pilipinas” to best serve the growing needs of Filipinos everywhere while pioneering innovations for a better world.
Today, UnionBank leads the way in digitisation and spurring financial inclusion across the Philippines. They have ensured that banking is simple, secure, and safe. This is especially relevant in the context of the pandemic, as it has given Filipinos the confidence to securely access their bank accounts from home or on the go. There has been a significant rise in the number of Filipinos availing of banking solutions, particularly UnionBank Online. UnionBank has won several awards and accolades for the best digital bank since they embraced the digital transformation route.
With increased digitisation, UnionBank is now more of a target for cyberattacks. As Joey says, “The rule of thumb is quite simple, really. As your customer base grows, so does your technology footprint with respect to cybersecurity. The bigger your digital and information assets are, the bigger the target you are for cybercriminals.”
One just has to speak to Joey to get a sense of the immense pride he feels at how far UnionBank’s digitisation efforts have come. For this program to be successful, UnionBank had to equip themselves with a cybersecurity partner that would allow them to not only compete with the best banks with superior customer experience but also ensure that all banking infrastructures, whether it is the data center, facilities, customers, and employees, are secure. It was imperative that the selected cybersecurity partner be equipped with modern solutions capable of mitigating risks and was tailor-for online banking. In addition, they had to have access to information and threat intelligence to swiftly block and prevent attacks while also enabling inspection of traffic and obtaining information on the attack.
“Given our requirements, we decided that Palo Alto Networks ML-Powered NGFWs and VM-Series Virtual Next-Generation Firewalls were best suited for high-speed data centers and internet gateways, private and public cloud computing environments, as well as service provider deployment securing networking, security, threat prevention, and management,” Joey emphasises.
UnionBank opted for a solution that would provide them with:
Palo Alto Networks was a strategic choice as they had the required experience in the banking sector. “Personally, I have worked with Palo Alto Networks in my previous role in the telco space,” says Joey. Palo Alto Networks has established itself as a reliable partner to UnionBank from an ability and resilience point of view by providing the bank with NGFW capabilities and access to real-time threat intelligence. Additionally, they have the proven ability to really dissect and inspect traffic so as to prevent threats in UnionBank’s digital platform that could directly impact their customers.
“Palo Alto Networks fits directly into our enterprise architecture, into our Information security roadmap, giving us cybersecurity resilience, ensuring we have the ability to identify, prevent, and detect threats in real time,” Joey reiterates. He also shares, “The superior solutions from Palo Alto Networks integrates with our security tools, services, and capabilities, allowing us to give our customers and the bank higher cybersecurity posture at any given point in time.”
Palo Alto Networks ML-Powered NGFWs classify all applications on all ports, all the time. They enforce security policies for any user, anywhere, and extend native protection across all attack vectors with cloud-delivered security subscriptions to consolidate Threat Prevention, URL filtering and antimalware. With the Threat Prevention subscription, this replaces the traditional intrusion prevention systems used by UnionBank, which prevents all known threats across all traffic in a single pass. Palo Alto Networks automatable VM-Series Virtual NGFWs are scalable to seamlessly deploy in any virtual or cloud environment.
UnionBank was using legacy technology that did not provide access to real-time threat intelligence. At the time, the cybersecurity threat intelligence team had to allocate a significant percentage of their time on a daily basis to block list threats in their perimeter and endpoint. “Today with the Palo Alto Networks threat intelligence capabilities, we have 360-degree visibility and can block thousands of attacks every day. This gives our team the opportunity to focus their efforts on higher-value security solutioning,” Joey explains. By doing away with the time-consuming task of looking for threats and conducting an analysis every time there’s an attack, UnionBank now has the advantage of next-generation capabilities to gather information on the threat, action needed, and remediation in real time.
Palo Alto Networks ML-Powered NGFWs have been utilised to secure the perimeter and corporate security. Joey states, “By replacing legacy IPS, Palo Alto Networks simplified operations. By opting for their solutions, we are assured of consistency as their NGFWs can consolidate firewalls, Threat Prevention, URL filtering and WildFire.” Having the same security controls from on-premises to the cloud (at a later stage) translates to ease of management within the Panorama™ central management, as the same security policies can be extended regardless of the deployment method.
The anonymity of the internet and progress in technology means threats are perpetually present. Cybersecurity will always be a challenge for enterprise leaders. Companies that have access to a wide variety of threat intelligence on a real-time basis and the ability to block attacks can help reduce our risk in that space.
Joey sums it up brilliantly as he says, “Cybersecurity has traditionally been the quiet guy, behind the scenes supporting the business. Today, it has become the value proposition that we showcase to our customers. Cybersecurity now is part of what UnionBank commits to the customer and Palo Alto Networks has helped us fulfill this commitment.”
With solutions from Palo Alto Networks, UnionBank has been able to deliver on its commitment to keep its customers secure anytime, anywhere. As a well-known digital innovator in banking and a disruptor in this sector, UnionBank has used solutions from Palo Alto Network to realise its commitment to customers. “As we embarked on our digital transformation journey, we have used an ecosystem of technology partners,” says Joey. “As a bank, we are extremely cognisant of our security partners and their credentials to leverage their solutions and help us scale our security to keep away potential risks and attacks. It is imperative that we maintain a high security posture. Palo Alto Networks shares our vision to provide safe digital banking and empowers us to achieve the goals we have set for ourselves.”
A unique phenomenon in the Philippines is that while there is a low penetration rate with respect to banking, there is high access to social media and the internet. Hence, when online banking was introduced, it became immensely popular. However, people were not necessarily conscious of the risks involved. Along with the mandate from the Philippines’ Central Bank, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), UnionBank has taken on the onus of educating customers about the threats in cyberspace. Apart from increasing awareness, UnionBank has set in place robust technology to prevent, detect, and respond to any threat. “As leaders in banking digitisation, we are committed to sharing best practices we have imbibed with other banks so that they can protect themselves and their customers from cyberattacks,” Joey reiterates. The pandemic furthered the security challenge by forcing people to take on remote work. As security gatekeepers, for Joey and his team, the possibility of cyberattacks became even higher as not everyone has a suitable work environment. They tackled this by employing a “people, process, and technology triad.” Awareness-building initiatives such as education and certification material for employees who would be working from home and using a virtual private network (VPN) were rolled out. Processes were established to streamline security. Technology, like containerisation, helped protect UnionBank from cyberattacks like malware and phishing.