By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
The Cebuana Lhuillier Rural Bank (CLRB) is expanding its branches to strategic cities this year to further strengthen its footprint in providing convenient basic financial services and encourage roughly 70 million unbanked Filipinos to open savings bank account for the first time through its network of 2,500 pawnshops and remittance centers scattered nationwide.
CLRB President Dennis Valdes told reporters at the launch of Cebuana Lhuillier’s micro savings product that they are looking at Davao, Cebu, General Santos and Baguio as new branch locations. The expansion would bring to a total of six branches from the present two located in Cavite and Batangas.
For the additional branches, Valdes said the capital expenditure has already been covered but if there is a need for additional capital, “we can plow in some savings.”
Further expansion of the rural banks, he said, would also depend on the progress of the bank and if there is need for more branches.
At present, Valdes said the goal is to educate its clients, making them more “savvy.” With that, CLRB can also move up to become a savings bank and be able to offer more sophisticated products and services to clients.
Jean Henri Lhuillier, president and CEO of Cebuana Lhuillier, however, said that their focus is to maximize the strength of its 2,500 pawnshops and remittance centers across the country to achieve real financial inclusion to the 70-million unbanked sector.
The Cebuana Lhuillier pawnshop and remittance centers serve as the cash agent of CLRB.
Last week, the country’s leading micro financial services provider, launched an easier, more convenient way to save through its new product – Cebuana Lhuillier Micro Savings. The launch coincided with the introduction of “#KayaNa: Unbanked Filipinos No More Movement.”
The micro savings product is Cebuana Lhuillier’s platform for Filipinos to overcome the barriers to saving.
Lhuillier said they are looking an initial 10 million unbanked Filipinos to open micro savings account with them in two to three years out of the 24 million clients of Cebuana Lhuillier. But there is the potential to provide financial access to all the 70 million unbanked Filipinos nationwide.
Opening a Cebuana Lhuillier Micro Savings account is also made easy and convenient. An individual will just have to go to the nearest Cebuana Lhuillier pawnshop outlet with one valid ID and a minimum of P50 initial deposit.
There will be a P100 one-time charge in opening the savings account, which has no dormancy and works as a basic deposit account. The deposit account has a P50,000 savings ceiling. It is an interest-bearing account with 0.3 percent interest rate for P500 deposit.
With Cebuana Lhuillier’s wide network of branches comprised of 2,500 retail infrastructures, account holders can deposit and withdraw anywhere at their most convenient hours using their 24K loyalty card.
This makes Cebuana Lhuillier the first MFI to offer this basic savings account to clients.
Part of the plan is to provide ATMs at their outlets by end this year and open an app by April this year where account holders can track their accounts, prepaid loads for mobile phone and do some bills payments.
“There are other basic accounts of other MFIs but not at our scale, no one attempted a nationwide scale,” said Lhuillier.