Big banks establish more branch-lite units

Lawrence Agcaoili - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Big banks are establishing more branch-lite units as part of efforts of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to promote financial inclusion.

BSP assistant governor Restituto Cruz issued Circular Letter 2018-068 approving the applications of 17 banks to open 126 new offices nationwide including 76 branch-lite units for the second quarter of the year.

Majority of the branch-lite units approved were from Ayala-led Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) through BPI Direct Bank with 50 branch-lite units all over the country.

This was followed by CARD SME Bank with 11 branch-lite units, LifeBank Inc. with five, Philippine Bank of Communication (PBCom) with three, Lucio Tan’s  Philippine National Bank (PNB) with two, Rural Bank of Bansud (Oriental Mindoro) with two, and ING Bank Manila, Cantilan Bank, and Rural Bank of Rizal (Zamboanga del Norte) with one each.

During the second quarter, 67 branch-lite units were opened by universal, thrift as well as rural and cooperative banks nationwide bringing the number of branch-lite units established to almost 150.

Banks that opened branch-lite units in the second quarter include BDO Unibank of retail and banking magnate Henry Sy, Yuchengco-led Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC), BPI Direct Banko, state-owned Land Bank of the Philippines, among others.

The BSP’s Monetary Board approved the rationalization of requirements on banking offices and guidelines on the establishment of branch-lite units through Circular 987 last December.

A branch-lite unit refers to any permanent office or place of business of a bank, other than its head office or a branch. A branch-lite unit performs limited banking activities and records its transactions in the books of the head office or branch.

The concept would help banks be more responsive to the changing preferences of financial consumers and market conditions.

The BSP currently allows banks to set up branches together with extension offices, other banking offices, and microfinance units subject to capitalization and documentary requirements.

Latest data showed there are 571 cities and municipalities in the Philippines that remain underserved or unbanked.


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