Union Bank of the Philippines the first universal bank in the Philippines to secure a license from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to operate as a virtual asset service provider (VASP).

With the license, the Aboitiz-led bank is set to gradually roll out a new feature that will allow customers to directly buy and sell bitcoins through it mobile app by the fourth quarter of this year.

UnionBank president and CEO Edwin Bautista said the milestone represents a significant leap forward for the listed bank as it continues to revolutionize the banking landscape.

'By obtaining this license, we are not only paving the way for even more groundbreaking opportunities, but also enhancing our digital capabilities and further transforming the way our customers interact with us,' Bautista said.

After becoming the first and only universal bank in the Philippines with a full VASP license, the listed bank can now extend virtual asset exchange services to a broader base of customers through its online app.

These virtual asset exchange services previously were accessible only to randomly selected users of the app through a limited virtual asset license.

The new feature provides a convenient and secure platform for trading cryptocurrencies through a well-established and trusted financial institution.

This will also allow bank clients to manage both traditional banking and digital assets within a single mobile platform.

UnionBank chief technology and operations officer Dennis Omila said the bank's commitment to its clients is the driving force behind every innovation.

'Through these new services, we are empowering them to be able to navigate this new space with confidence,' Omila said.

'In this era where change is constant, our pursuit of this license isn't just about staying current, but about being future-proof and future-ready. The financial landscape is evolving at an unprecedented pace, and we want to be at the forefront, ensuring that we are equipped to meet the evolving needs of our clients,' UnionBank head of emerging technology group head Cathy Casas said.

The adoption of blockchain technology has been integral to UnionBank's future-proofing strategy, and the bank has been actively exploring potential use cases, including cryptocurrencies, to adapt to evolving customer needs and financial trends.

In 2019, UnionBank launched the country's first bank-operated, two-way virtual currency ATM located in its digital branch 'The ARK' in Makati City, which allows users to buy and sell cryptocurrencies.

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