As banks in the Philippines struggle to find their footing amid the growing influence of cryptocurrencies, leading universal bank UnionBank is the first to make a definite step as it introduced a two-way virtual currency automated teller machine (ATM) which will provide an accessible virtual currency exchange platform.

A first for the country, this groundbreaking ATM which has already been set up in the bank’s Ayala Avenue branch allows buying and selling of digital units with respect to regulations set by Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

In a statement released to the media, the Aboitiz-led bank intimated both confidence and excitement in this venture with premier fintech company Coins.ph as their partner. “In the bank’s continued quest to cater to the evolving needs and tastes of customers, the ATM will provide an alternative channel to convert (their) pesos to virtual currency and vice versa,” it said.

While BSP welcomes this innovation, it continues to adopt a hands-off approach when it comes to cryptocurrency exchange, citing the tendency of digital units to be “highly volatile in nature.” This explains why, in spite of the creation of a formal regulatory framework for virtual currency exchanges through Circular 944 released early 2017, BSP has yet to endorse the use of privately-issued cryptocurrency as a medium of exchange.

Despite BSP’s apparent hesitance, UnionBank remains aggressive in embracing such technology. This was clearly expressed by the bank’s Chairman and Blockchain Association of the Philippines’ (BAP) newly-minted head Justo A. Cortez in an interview during the Philippines-Japan Investment and Cryptocurrency Forum held in Tokyo March of last year.

“It is important for people and organizations in mainstream activities to get on board even if it is just a learning system, ” Ortiz said.

He also added that it is not a question of perfect timing but who was bold enough to go first. “If you wait for the perfect environment to appear, you’re going to meet perfect competition,” he said.

UnionBank President and Chief Executive Officer Edwin Bautista echoed the same sentiments saying that the crypto ATM is just one of the many advancements in the pipeline. According to Bautista, 2019 will bring about the third phase of digital transformation for the bank as it positions itself to be the leader in virtual currency innovations in the country.

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