ASEAN Bank Stability Report Reveals Most (and Least) Reliable Philippines Banksby Johanan Devanesan February 7, 2024
In the contemporary era where the digital economy shapes the core of financial transactions, the reliance on banking services and stability has significantly escalated, including in the Philippines.
This reliance is not merely a reflection of a preference for convenience, but underscores a pivotal shift towards digital banking as an indispensable component of both personal and business financial management.
The ASEAN Bank Stability Report, introduced by Singaporean fintech software and services firm Brankas, evaluates the resilience and reliability of banking infrastructure, particularly focusing on the ASEAN region with an in-depth analysis of bank stability in both the Philippines and Indonesia.
This comprehensive study of bank uptimes and downtimes aims to dissect the ramifications of traditional bank stability, delving into the operational reliability of banks in the Philippines, challenges in maintaining uninterrupted service, and the consequent impacts on the financial ecosystem at large.
The Critical Role of Uptime in Banking Services
The digital transformation of banking has accentuated the critical nature of continuous service availability. In an age where digital transactions form the backbone of daily financial activities, the stability of online bank services become a fundamental requirement in the Philippines and throughout the region.
The ASEAN Bank Stability Report, through its assessment of network uptime performance, highlights the operational reliability of the major Philippine and Indonesian banks such as RCBC, Bank Mandiri, and UnionBank.
Todd Schweitzer, CEO and Co-founder of Brankas, points out that in the digital banking era, uptime transcends being a mere metric:
“Now that e-payments and digital banking are becoming the norm, constant access to reliable digital banking services is no longer a luxury, but a necessity. Uptime is a critical metric that impacts trust and stability, and we hope that Brankas’ latest report sheds light on the ASEAN region’s commitment to financial reliability and security.”
Influential Factors on Bank Uptime
The discourse on banking uptime is nuanced, attributing downtime to several factors including scheduled maintenance, system upgrades, and unforeseen technical glitches.
Scheduled maintenance is a necessary operation for banks, involving essential updates and security enhancements that necessitate temporary service suspensions.
System upgrades are equally vital, ensuring that banking operations align with current industry standards and security requirements. Technical glitches represent unforeseen challenges that can disrupt service.
The swift and effective resolution of such glitches is critical for maintaining service continuity.
The report advocates for a balance between essential maintenance and the need for uninterrupted service, suggesting advanced notifications for scheduled downtimes to minimise customer inconvenience.
Analysing Bank Performance Stability in the Philippines
The report provides a detailed overview of the performance metrics of Philippine banks, with the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation, better known as RCBC, emerging as a frontrunner with an impressive uptime of 98.3% and a record of seven months without any downtime events.
In stark contrast, UnionBank’s performance was highlighted as the least impressive, with an uptime of 95.98% and significant outages, including one that lasted around 20 hours.
Landbank and Metrobank stood out for their proactive dissemination of notices regarding both scheduled and emergency maintenance operations.
In contrast, BPI was diligent in announcing planned maintenance but fell short in alerting customers to unforeseen service interruptions. UnionBank and BDO were notably less efficient in communicating both scheduled and unexpected system disruptions.
Impact of Banking Downtimes in the Philippines
Throughout the year, all banks faced operational downtimes, with UnionBank and Metrobank experiencing the greatest number of incidents. The duration of these downtimes typically varied from one to three hours, although there were instances of extended disruptions:
UnionBank suffered a 20-hour outage, Metrobank experienced downtimes between six and eight hours, BPI had an 18-hour interruption, and Landbank encountered an eight-hour pause in services.
January 2023 emerged as the month with the minimal downtime incidents across banks in the Philippines. RCBC demonstrated exemplary performance by maintaining uninterrupted service for seven consecutive months.
A significant disruption occurred in March when an InstaPay issue impacted the majority of banks, leading to widespread system interruptions.
BDO and Metrobank initiated an eight-hour maintenance shutdown between April and May 2023.
UnionBank observed increased downtime during payday periods, hinting at the existing infrastructure’s inability to manage abrupt surges in demand. UnionBank recorded the highest total downtime of 183 hours over the year, equivalent to an offline status for 7.6 days.
The analysis further reveals the infrastructural strains during peak periods such as payday, suggesting a need for capacity enhancement to handle traffic spikes.
The proactive communication by banks, or lack thereof, in the event of both planned and unplanned outages is underscored as a critical area for improvement, to safeguard reputation and ensure customer satisfaction.
The Banking Sector at a Crossroads
The emergence of digital banks and fintech companies has catalysed a transformative shift in the banking sector, propelling traditional banks towards innovation and customer-centric service models.
The report highlights a significant consumer trend, with digital banks and fintechs capturing a substantial share of new checking accounts opened in 2023.
This shift not only illustrates the evolving consumer preferences but also serves as a clarion call for traditional banks to adapt and innovate to remain competitive.
The indispensability of a reliable banking ecosystem is emphasised, considering the increasing sophistication of cyberattacks, the demand for cross-border access, and the diverse banking support required across various platforms and devices.
The insights gleaned from the ASEAN Bank Stability Report by Brankas are invaluable for a spectrum of stakeholders within the financial ecosystem, offering a lens through which the reliability and stability of digital banking services can be assessed.
As the report highlights, the significance of network uptime in digital banking cannot be overstated, with its direct implications on business operations and consumer trust.
As the ASEAN region continues to evolve as a dynamic financial hub, the report’s findings offer critical insights for informed decision-making, paving the way for a banking sector that is equipped to meet the challenges of the digital age and cater to the evolving demands of a diverse clientele.