Best Bank in the Philippines in 2020

Published November 22, 2020, 11:19 PM

by Ignacio R. Bunye

SPEAKING OUT

Ignacio R. Bunye
Ignacio R. Bunye

Congratulations to the board and management of  Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI),  which was recently recognized as the Best Bank in the Philippines for 2020 by Euromoney, the prestigious global financial publication. Established in 1992, the Euromoney’s Awards for Excellence is the first of its kind in the global banking industry.

Euromoney cited BPI’s multi-year digital transformation journey and the success of its investment banking division, which in 2019 generated almost three times the revenues of the prior year.

According to Euromoney, “Bank of the Philippine Islands is a port in a storm—and right now, we are in a storm.  It isn’t the country’s biggest bank as measured by assets. But the Ayala-backed BPI has a higher Tier-1 capital adequacy ratio (15.19% at the end of March 2020) compared to its chief rival.”

If I may just add,  financial analysts  also notice that BPI is  tops in other metrics like ROE, P/E and P/B ratios. The Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas  gives BPI consistently high marks in corporate governance. The Securities and Exchange Commission lauds BPI for its Green Finance Framework.

A fellow banker in my Viber group added his own accolade:  “BPI is just like Manny Pacquiao. Like Pacquiao, BPI may not be the biggest. But pound-for-pound, BPI is the best.”

Celebrating its 169th year, BPI’s reputation has been built on trust, stability, and nation building.

“We are committed to providing our customers with innovative and relevant financial solutions, in good and bad times,” said BPI President and CEO Cezar P. Consing.  “We are the country’s first-ever bank, and our longevity is built on being ready today, ready tomorrow.”

Helping rebuild microenterprises

The COVID-19 pandemic proved that almost all business sectors are not fully prepared to face a crisis of such scale, even those that have continuity plans or sustainable business practices. But compared to the rest, the self-employed microentrepreneurs (SEME) have felt the brunt of the pandemic’s impact. Perhaps they were simply unprepared for this kind of disruption.

Many SEMEs were forced to shut and permanently close because of the demand shortfall, supply chain problems, and losses during the early months of the quarantine period. Even after the government loosened its COVID-19 protocols, the challenges remained overwhelming.

But there are pockets of hope. Banks are seeing new opportunities to help SEMEs recover by innovating their financial products, harnessing alternative channels, and going digital to make financial services more convenient and accessible to clients.

This is where BanKo, the Bank of the Philippine Islands’ (BPI) microfinance arm, comes in and I take my hat off to BanKo Chair Marie Josephine “Jojo” Ocampo and President Jerome Minglana. BanKo is among the local banks that have been providing lifelines to the neediest microentrepreneurs. With 92,000 active clients, BanKo rolled out its Loan Rehabilitation Fund Program, which allowed existing borrowers to take out another loan to support their operations. It also offered the Term Extension Program, which allowed clients to reschedule their amortization payments based on their new cash flow.

As of August 31, over 4,600 clients have already extended their loan terms, while over 800 NegosyoKo loan clients availed of the Rehab Fund. I believe more microentrepreneurs will benefit from these loans in the coming months.

BanKo has also moved to a more innovative lending model by pushing a digital payment and collection method. Through the BanKo Mobile app, NegosyoKo borrowers may easily view the schedule of their repayments, check their balance and payment history, and pay their loans without having to leave their home or store. Borrowers can also conveniently open a PondoKo savings account, buy prepaid load, transfer money, and pay bills using the app.

These timely innovations in processes and products are what the sector needs now leading to a post-COVID 19 recovery.

Disclosure: This writer sits in the boards of both BPI and BPI Direct BanKo.

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