UnionBank earns license to operate cryptocurrency trade in mobile app

September 20, 2023 - 9:40 AM
A screenshot of UnionBank's upcoming feature for cryptocurrency service (Released)

UnionBank of the Philippines or UnionBank was approved by the central bank to offer mobile cryptocurrency trading, making it the first local bank to earn such a license.

In a statement on September 19, UnionBank announced that it secured a Certificate of Authority from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to operate as a virtual asset service provider (VASP) in the country.

This means that the bank can now legally roll out a new service or feature where its clients can directly buy and sell Bitcoin (BTC) through its mobile application.

Prior to this, the bank operated under a “limited virtual asset license” wherein only selected users were allowed to avail of its virtual asset exchange services.

Being a licensed provider therefore opens up this system to UnionBank’s entire clientele using their online app.

In a separate statement, UnionBank President and CEO Edwin Bautista said that BSP’s nod to the private bank’s crypto initiative is a milestone to “revolutionize the banking landscape.”

“This milestone represents a significant leap forward for UnionBank as we continue 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.”

UnionBank said the new feature will roll out in the final quarter of 2023. No exact date, however, has been provided yet.

Under BSP’s regulations, a VASP refers to “any entity that offers services or engages in activities that provide facility for the transfer or exchange of VA [virtual assets].”

A “virtual asset,” meanwhile, is “any type of digital unit that can be digitally traded, or transferred, and can be used for payment or investment purposes.”

BSP has strongly advised local investors or Filipinos who seek to enter into cryptocurrency to engage in licensed providers only.

The central bank also strongly discouraged investing in platforms with base locations in other countries.

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So far, local companies licensed to offer virtual trade services are Maya Philippines, Inc., Coinville Philippines, Inc., TopJuan Technologies, and the Philippine Digital Asset Exchange (PDAX).

BSP’s list of licensed providers can be viewed here VASP.pdf (bsp.gov.ph).