May 17, 2019
Catherine Anne P. Bautista-Casas
Head of Blockchain and FinTech Business Development
Being in the right time and place led the banker to the top spot of her institution’s bright technological advances. In the future, expect her to be more involved in people and business transformation as she plunges into the world of blockchain and bitcoin.
My lola (grandmother), the epitome of grace under pressure. My mom, hardworking and kind-hearted.
To be the salt of the earth and light of the world. To make the world a better place.
FIRST PAYING JOB
Accepted consultations to do statistical analysis for a fee in College.
I update myself on what’s happening globally in banking, fintech and the financial markets, bond with kids and prepare for work.
Problem-solving and decision making, event organizing and anything that involves good hand-eye coordination like basketball, darts and target shooting.
TIME SPENT ONSOCIAL MEDIA
Less than 30 minutes a day.
There are some two billion people with no access to financial services. FinTech grew because it solved the issue of financial inclusion
By Louise Nichole Logarta
Photos by Mindy Gana
The union of technology and finance is challenging for most – not so in the case of UnionBank’s head of Blockchain and FinTech Business Development, Catherine Anne Bautista-Casas.
“Serendipitous” is the word this self-proclaimed nerd used to describe taking the first step on the path of finance. When asked how she got into the field, she recalls: “It was actually unplanned, accidental, but it fit, since I was good in math and science in high school.”
“I guess I was in the right place at the right time,” Cathy says. “Finance and statistics majors were in demand because banks were starting to change the way they measured capital.”
Fresh out of college, she joined UnionBank, which needed statisticians who could quantify risk. Hired as a statistical analysis officer, her work was mostly numbers crunching, which Cathy was comfortable with. Taking advantage of the establishment’s optimal environment for learning, she moved around different areas of the bank.
In her 17 years with UnionBank, she also acted as market risk officer. Most of it, however, was spent in the Treasury group as a fixed income and derivatives trader. For a while, she believed that she would permanently stay in Treasury. That is, until she moved to the FinTech Business Group last year.
FinTech, or Financial Technology, Cathy explains, is a group of companies that is responsible for why banks are evolving, responding to the need to improve customer experience and get on board digital transformation. FinTech enabled financial services to be provided to the unbanked: customers who do not have bank accounts through use of technology instead of traditional banking procedures.
“There are around two billion individuals who do not have access to financial services, especially in rural areas,” Cathy relates. “The reason they (FinTech) flourished is that they were able to solve one problem that others could not: financial inclusion. They did this by using the phone. You don’t need to have a bank account, but you do need a phone.”
FinTech Business Group, created two to three years ago, was formed to partner and collaborate with the FinTechs as the task at hand was too big for one institution to do alone. “Since it’s in [UnionBank’s] DNA to collaborate, it was natural for us to do this,” says Cathy. “Since FinTech companies are mostly start-ups, they need a bank to support their operations, so we open accounts for them with us. We get to know them and we find out that maybe some of their products can be integrated with the bank. We work toward a common goal.”
Essential to FinTech is Blockchain, a new technology that serves to streamline processes and operations within the bank and reduce costs. On its importance, Cathy says: “It goes beyond this, it has the power to change not only banking, but the entire economy. Its scale of importance to the system is that it can do to value what email has done to communication.”
“It is a digital ledger of transactions, not just financial, but practically anything of value, so called ‘Blockchain’ for the way information is organized: in blocks, which are linked or chained together.
Bitcoin, a type of cryptocurrency or electronic cash, popularized Blockchain.
With Bitcoin, for instance, one can join the network, manage their finances and basically act as one’s own bank.
The uses of Blockchain are highly practical. Bitcoins or other types of cryptocurrencies, can be used to purchase physical goods. They can also be converted to cash through registered virtual currency exchangers such as coins.ph.
UnionBank has its very own Bitcoin ATM, thanks to Cathy. “It’s a specialized ATM that allows customers to purchase as well as sell Bitcoins for cash. They need to have a bank account with us first and they also need to have a Bitcoin wallet, which is like a bank account that accepts cryptocurrency.
Outside of work, Cathy takes pride in her family life. “I was born in a very simple and humble family,” she reports. She is the eldest girl among three brothers and one sister, all of whom are very close, especially in family matters.
Being on top of the bank’s burgeoning technological advances poses challenges to Cathy’s role as mother to two girls, Celine and Bea. “I consciously try to set bonding time with them. To compensate, I make sure that I communicate with the kids. I tell them, ‘I have to go to work because of you, because I love you.
In the months to follow, Cathy sees herself becoming more involved in people and business transformation as she dives deeper into more advanced tech.
“All I know is that I want to continue to learn and contribute as much as I can to create the best possible state of the future for my kids. I believe even your career choice has an impact on the world, especially now that everything is connected.”
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