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In photo: Union Bank of the Philippines (UnionBank) President and CEO Edwin Bautista during his speech at the APEC Global MSME Forum where he was a panelist

Banks must continue to find new ways to ensure that micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) are able to borrow for their business needs more easily especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This was the key message of Union Bank of the Philippines (UnionBank) President and CEO Edwin Bautista during his speech at the APEC Global MSME Forum where he was a panelist.

“The problem is not the MSMEs. They know this [e-commerce] is the way to go. I think the problem is more of the banks,” Bautista said. “As banks, we have been trying to tell to MSMEs, ‘you need to pivot, you need to do this,’ but I think it’s about time that we recognize that it is us [banks] who need to do most of the pivoting rather than the MSMEs.”

Bautista cited the need for collateral and other risk controls that limit access to financing options from banks for smaller companies as among the biggest reasons why MSMEs are wary of borrowing, saying that banks must pivot in order to create a credit landscape that is more accommodating and responsive to the needs of these businesses.

For its part, UnionBank continues to think of new ways to make business financing easier and more accessible for MSMEs, especially amid the uncertainties of the pandemic when they need it the most. Among the numerous solutions of the Bank in this regard are SeekCap, Sentro, and GlobalLinker.

SeekCap is the Philippines’ first same-day approval lending marketplace that links borrowers with banking and non-bank lenders. It’s a platform where businesses can find the financing options that fit the current needs of their business the most. One of the many advantages of using the platform is that no collateral is needed, and the Bank determines a business’ capacity to borrow based on their cash flows, which is measured by the platform. 

“It’s very important that they must join a platform because if they are in a platform, the bank can now lend based on the flows. We can lend money based on the receivables. It’s something that we were never able to do in the past.”

Meanwhile, Sentro is the country’s first online shop builder that gives users all the tools they will need to easily create a fully featured online store, from customizable menus and layouts to payment gateways and logistics-related solutions, among other features.

“Sentro is an online shop builder for those who want to participate in an online platform but are not big enough to participate in the big platforms. We allow them this opportunity.”

And finally, UnionBank GlobalLinker is a platform where MSMEs can access a global marketplace for selling their products. One notable advantage of using the platform is that users also have the option to interact with other MSMEs who are part of the platform, so they can learn from each other and also establish strategic partnerships.

“One of the things that we realized is MSMEs want to help each other, so here is a networking site where they can talk about their businesses, they can get advice from people with similar situations, and they can also search wider markets for the products that they sell.”

But even with the Bank now leading the way in offering easier access to financing options geared toward MSMEs, Bautista said a lot still needs to be done to ensure that these smaller businesses are able to thrive during these challenging times. 

“Our message to ourselves is ‘guys, we need to walk the talk.’ These guys we’re trying to preach to, they’re convinced because to them, it’s e-commerce or death. To us, we have other choices. We have to ask ourselves the question, ‘how serious are we in trying to help MSMEs?’ And if we are, let’s do more of the pivoting,” Bautista concluded. 

For more information on UnionBank’s MSME initiatives, visit

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