The Future Of Banking
Lifestyle Asia|December 2020 - January 2021
Amidst the global pandemic, digital banking apps like ING are proving that you can do more and more from the comfort and safety of your home
Dong Ronquillo

It was a great pleasure to have been allowed to personally interview Mr. Hans Sicat of ING Bank and tackle the banking and finance industry. As an economics major myself, the banking industry is close to my heart and from time to time it is important to discuss some critical issues that affect us all, especially in these unprecedented times.

Here’s a question: How many times have you used online banking in these past seven or eight months? And how many times have you stepped into a brick and mortar bank? If the answer weighs completely on the former, then we’re all on the same boat. As we slowly reopen our economy, we are gradually seeing the benefits of growing our digital economy.

Like many industries across the globe, banking took a hard hit at the onset of the COVID-19 lockdowns. “We had perhaps the most unusual situation where both demand and supply literally just came to a screeching halt,” says Hans Sicat, Philippine country manager of the Dutch bank ING. “We’ve never had that problem before,” he adds.

Sicat is a trained mathematician and economist, with an illustrious career in the global capital market that spans three decades. But he had humbler beginnings: Funny story when I was maybe just a toddler, my mother [thought] I wanted to become a garbage collector, saying that he would mimic the motion of loading the trucks while looking out the window. But he eventually had bigger dreams, moving up to wanting to become an astronaut. When I started learning a bit more, he recalls, I said, 'Oh, I saw Neil Armstrong go to the moon,' and I said, 'That'll be cool.'

Clearly, Sicat grew up to be neither of those. I had to earn a living and I ended up being a banker, he says, going back to more grounded dreams. And it has served him well, so to speak, being closer to the earth. Apart from his post at ING, Sicat also served as a member of the Philippine Stock Exchange Board of Directors and was its longest-serving CEO since 2011. This has allowed him to keep an ear to the ground, surveying the economic landscape as it moves into various ups and downs.

Now, as we move towards a more digital economy, Sicat is leading ING through the twists and turns of overcoming a pandemic stricken economy. After a period of absolutely no economic activity under lockdown, markets are slowly reopening. Because for us to survive until the pandemic is over, we must achieve a careful balance of economic activity and safety. One of the first questions I ask him is if can we survive without all this economic activity. “No,” Sicat says, and that’s why it’s important for some activity to resume, even if it's at a slower rate than before. There are signs that the economy is at least operating, he says; I would say that the big institutions are doing their transactions. When you look at the last two months alone, according to Sicat, large conglomerates — including the government, by the way, he adds — have raised around six billion in both dollars and pesos. But that's not something we see in our everyday lives. Throughout the lockdown in the country, the mass extinction of small and medium enterprises has taken place. There are a variety of reasons that many businesses, from travel to restaurants and other establishments, have closed, but it's still mainly because we're all still stuck at home.

So is it wise to open up the economy again, to give a chance for small and medium business to survive? It’s a complicated answer, according to Sicat. “Clearly,” he says, “We’re at a bit of a disadvantage as an emerging market with a not-as-developed healthcare system.” This means that the quarantine is still necessary to slow down the virus, but there needs to be some economic activity because it's going to be a while before the situation can drastically get better. Sicat explains, The cure for this pandemic is not coming anytime soon — it will take a while for pharmaceutical firms to develop effective vaccines. In the meantime, he says, the way through this medium-term problem is to balance economic activity in a way where the health of people is the top priority.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

RELATED STORIES

Innovating for well over a century

CANADA’S BIGGEST BANK TAKES A NEW PATH BEYOND BANKING

2 mins read
Fast Company
September 2020

India's Stressed Banks

“This is the classic crisis of confidence”

4 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
November 04, 2019

How To Put AI In Team

A startup says it can use algorithms to screen a more diverse pool of Wall Street job seekers.

4 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
October 14, 2019

Money Movers - Because Industries Could Use A Shakeup

These founders are redefining old businesses like insurance and banking, and bringing financial services to people who have never had them.

2 mins read
Inc.
October 2019

Top 5 Values Of A STEM Life That Every Young Professional And Student Should Know

Starting with everyday examples, the NetApp exec asks young people to look at how they can influence banking, commerce, the auto industry, and healthcare over the next 10, 20, 30 years.

4 mins read
USBE & Information Technology
August 2019

Millennial Money: Credit Unions Add Flex To Your Finances

An underused money tool that could help a new generation of adults on their path to prosperity isn’t a smartphone app, a virtual currency or a digital payment system.

3 mins read
Techlife News
August 10, 2019

Deutsche Bank Waves The White Flag

The iconic German bank finally pares down its ambitions. But is it too late?

7 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
July 15, 2019

The Bank Of Japan's Voracious Appetite Has Paralyzed The Government Bond Market

Japan’s Ministry of Finance went to the trouble of creating a cute little mascot to sell government bonds. But there’s only one buyer that counts: The Bank of Japan. That’s not about to change—despite rising criticism of current stimulus policies.

9 mins read
Bloomberg Markets
April - May 2019

How (And Why) Banks Handle Money

How (and why) banks handle money

3 mins read
Muse Science Magazine for Kids
April 2019

The $200 Trillion Gold Rush

A trip around the world with private bankers pursuing the ultra wealthy

10+ mins read
Bloomberg Markets
December 2018 / January 2019