Philippine Monetary and Banking Industry: Doing good business as ever

Banks or depository institutions are places where one can keep his or her money safe.  Banks offer various services such as savings accounts and checking accounts. They can also offer loans, investments, financial advice and counseling, and safe deposit boxes.

So imagine if there are no banks and people have to carry huge cash all the time. Or keep them somewhere else – in the cabinet, at bed or makeshift depository bins at home.

More than offering safe depository establishments, the banking system has always played a substantial role in sustaining the pace of growth of the country’s economy. The entire banking sector is supervised by the Central bank of the Philippines, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, while the overall industry is segmented and variegated as under:

Forty Commercial and Universal banks together hold around 90% of the total market share of banking industry in the Philippines. These banks claim a lion’s share of the total deposits available to whole banking industry. Their area of services ranges from wholesale, retail and corporate banking to treasury, trade, underwriting and investment advisory. Some top commercial and universal banks (on the basis of available assets) in the Philippines are: Metropolitan Bank and Trust, Land Bank of the Philippines, Banco de Oro Unibank, Philippine National Bank and Bank of the Philippine Islands.

There are 495 Rural and Co-operative banks in the Philippines which are responsible for development of rural areas and their economies by providing basic financial services to rural populace. The major difference between rural and co-operative banks is the nature of their ownership. Rural banks are owned by the private individuals while co-operative banks are under the ownership of co-operative societies.

Thrift banks in the Philippines are 57 in numbers. These banks are further categorized into Private development banks, Savings and mortgage banks, Loan associations, stock savings and microfinance saving banks. Their major activities include collection of deposits from small savers and investing them into profitable portfolios. These banks are also engaged in providing trade services to small and medium-sized enterprises and individual entrepreneurs. According to the website CreditBPO, emerging business segments in banking industry include the following:

A form of partnership or association between a financial institution and an insurance company; where banks offer insurance products through their platform to their customers. In recent years, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has received numerous applications both from local and foreign banks seeking approval for provision of Bancassurance services through their platforms.

Mobile banking or Branchless banking: a relatively new form of service where banks or financial institutions allow their customers to conduct financial transactions through their mobile devices. Mobile banking can be carried out in collaboration with telecom industry and is far away from the traditional brick-and-mortar banking structure.

Retail Wealth Management: Wealth management services and Retail investment advisory is provided to young or new investors showing interest in mutual fund units and other such financial products. Microfinance: This is one of the fastest growing business not only in the Philippines but is also attracting the whole world’s admiration. As per the latest report of the Central bank, there are more than 200 microfinance institutions working in the country, that has lent around $250 million to 1 million borrowers.

Despite the emergence of banks even in many areas in the Philippines, many Filipinos are unbanked: three out of four Filipinos don’t have a bank account. 40 percent of people in municipalities and cities in the Philippines do not even have access to banks. Only 5 percent of Filipinos have credit cards.

Easing out countryside living

Living in the countryside — especially far away from the nearest city — can bring up challenges that urban people don’t often face. Access to wealth or simply put receiving one’s hard-earned money from days of toiling the soil under the scorching heat of the sun can be time- consuming and risky.

Take this usual scenario: people in many provinces especially those in the remote areas need to travel a long way – either they trek mountains, pass by rugged roads, or cross the seas – from two to four hours to the nearest city with an ATM (Automated Teller Machine) to withdraw their money. Beneficiaries of the government’s CCT (Conditional Cash Transfer) program, also called 4Ps (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program) go through the same burdensome experience.

This is so because there are hardly ATM machines in the far-flung areas. Most rural banks don’t have the financial capability to set up and maintain a network of ATMs which can cost from P150,000 and up.

The POS Cash Out, launched in June 2015, is the best remedy to this problem. This is an offshoot of the POS payment service which allows cashless purchases at accredited checkout counters. With POS Cash Out, cardholders only have to swipe their ATM cards at POS terminals for cash withdrawal as well as balance inquiry.

According to BancNet, the Philippine-based interbank network connecting the ATM networks of local and offshore banks, the POS Cash Out machines which can cost as low as P25,000 to install are now deployed at BancNet partner establishments as well as member banks that have no ATM facility nationwide including in the remotest areas of the country.

BancNet said that this affordable price for installation fee makes it possible for them to reach out to the countryside, as banks do not only install the POS Cash Out terminal in their braches but also in other establishments such as remittance agents, retail stores, and cooperatives.

Banco Dipolog, Inc. is the first among BancNet’s member banks to offer POS Cash Out among its clients. By September 18, 2015, at all of its 21 banking offices within Visayas and Mindanao in Dipolog City,  Dapitan City, Ipil and Sindangan, Zamboanga del Norte; Pagadian, Zamboanga del Sur; Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental; Carcar City, Cebu; Cagayan De Oro City; Valencia City, Bukidnon;  Iligan City, Lanao del Norte; Municipality of Imelda, Zamboanga Sibugay; and Ozamis City, Misamis Oriental, have the POS terminal in all these establishments.

The service was also launched in June 2015 through its partnership with the Landbank of the Philippines (Landbank), one of its member banks. Landbank has a tie-up with New Covenant Rural Bank in Gabaldon, Nueva Ecija for the CCT program.   With the bank’s deployment of POS in Gabaldon, CCT beneficiaries from the municipality no longer have to travel to Cabanatuan City to get their allowance.

As of June 2016, Landbank has deployed 94 POS Cash Out machines nationwide which are installed in Sta. Ignacia, Tarlac; Lagawe and Bontoc in Luzon; Siquijor, Dinagat Island and Biliran in Visayas, and Bongao, Tandag City and Mambajao in Mindanao.

EMV-ready cards

In compliance with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ (BSP) mandate for a stronger and more secure ATM transactions via the Europay Mastrercard Visa (EMV) standard, BancNet is fast-tracking member banks’ preparedness through its partnership with FIME, a global EMV certification company. FIME developedBancNet’s certification tools to test the banks” host systems, chips cards, the ATMs and the POS machines.

EMV cards contain an embedded microprocessor, which creates a new transaction code every time the card is used. This anti-fraud solution provides strong security features previously not possible with traditional magnetic stripe cards.

Aside from issuing chip-enabled cards, Visa is also working to ensure ATMs and point-of-sale terminals meet the internationally recognized chip-standards by June 30, 2018

BancNet is also focused to playing a key role in the formation of the National Retail Payment System (NRPS) as mandated by the BSP. The NRPS system will create an environment that allows easy access to financial services, make payments and receive or transfer funds to other accounts anytime, anywhere, at a reasonable price from any digital device. BancNet is aiming to be the central clearing operator for all card-based transactions as well as the clearing switch operator for credit and debit electronic funds transfers (EFT).

Scan me, pay me

G-Xchange Inc. has recently introduced the third method of payment in the Philippines — GCash.

Through the QR-based mobile payment system, customers can now shop by just scanning the QR codes displayed by partner merchants and establishments. With the new smartphone application, there will be no need for customers to carry around wads of cash. It makes purchasing the latest fashion items or paying services more convenient and secure, while eliminating the chance of having misunderstandings over payments and getting the wrong change.

The new payment option is a game changer for both consumers and merchants. It allows customers to pay for goods and services by simply using their smartphones to scan QR codes displayed by merchants and establishments.  On the other hand, business owners also benefit from not having to install expensive machines as they are provided with a QR code sticker which buyers can scan to pay.  GCash sees this solution working not just for organized trade but even for the ambulant vendors.

PH banking system healthy— S&P  Global Ratings

In May this year, International credit watcher Standard & Poor’s  (S&P)  Global Ratings said the Philippine banking system is healthy. S&P classified the Philippine banking sector in the group “7” under its Banking Industry Country Risk Assessment (Bicra). The country’s ranking remained unchanged from S&P’s earlier assessment.

Other countries in group 7 are Bahrain, Bulgaria, Costa Rica, Croatia, Hungary, Indonesia, Jordan, Morocco, Portugal and Slovenia.

“We believe the trend in economic risks facing financial institutions operating in the Philippines has become positive, based on improving credit fundamentals,” S&P said.

Among the positive developments mentioned in S&P’s report were the local banking regulations—which were broadly in line with international standards, with some even more stringent then global parameters.

Also, S&P cited the government-led Credit Information Corp. (CIC), whose full launch is scheduled for early 2018.

The country’s positive economic trend, S&P said, also bodes well for the local banking industry—one that is heavily biased toward corporate lending.

“Philippine banks predominantly lend to the corporate segment, particularly larger companies with long credit histories and a strong repayment track record. The corporate sector has healthy margins, good profitability and adequate interest coverage. We believe robust economic conditions will continue to support borrower repayment, and we expect credit losses from the corporate sector to remain low,” S&P said.

However, S&P warned of the country’s low income level and inadequate infrastructure, which could hamper economic diversification and growth.“The country’s weak payment culture and rule of law heighten credit risk,” S&P said.

“We consider that inadequate legislation and legal protection for supervisory staff could, however, compromise the regulator’s ability to implement prudential measures,” it added. Also, S&P said any major hindrance in the implementation of the credit bureau, or a significant increase in credit pressures on the corporate or household sector, will stall or delay an improving trend in the Philippine banking system’s credit risk portfolio.

In August. S&P said PH banks are set to continue to grow rapidly over the next two years due to the following factors: solid economic growth, corporate profitability, low interest rates, and a drop in nonperforming loans.

The banking sector will grow by 15 to 17 percent this year and the next, according to the “Philippine Banks To Continue To Ride Robust Economic Growth” published on Wednesday.

“We believe that the credit cycle in the Philippines has further to run,” S&P Credit Analyst Ivan Tan said in the report.

“Most of the factors that drive credit cycles – corporate profits, low interest rates, and abundant liquidity – still look very much in place,” he added.


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