‘We’re trying to get our EU clients to come here’
Dutch financial institution ING Bank said it sees huge business opportunities in the Philippines for European investors given the country’s brisk economic growth and strong demand for infrastructure, power and utilities.
The investment bank’s country manager in Manila stressed that the high level of interest shown by investors from Europe could be sustained in an environment of high growth and good governance.
“We’re excited that the Philippines is entering a demographic sweet spot. This is the start of our year. If the government plays its card right, you’ll have a decade of sustainable growth,” Consuelo Garcia told reporters in a roundtable discussion on Wednesday.
What makes the Philippines attractive is mainly its average GDP growth of 6 percent annually, making it one of the fastest growing economies in Asia, Garcia said.
“Investors see the Philippines as a consumer market and all the privatization is also attracting a lot of expertise. What we’re trying to do is get our European clients to come here,” she said.
ING Commercial Banking Global Chief Executive Officer William Connelly said the firm is focusing on supporting its Filipino clients—providing their capital requirements by bringing resources from outside, as well as supporting multinational firms that plan to invest in the Philippines.
“We’re not a bank that just deals and sells assets; we’re not a bank that comes into a market and when things get difficult, just walks away. If you look at our position in the Philippines—when I first came here in the ‘90s, the Philippines was not in a robust situation that we hear today; it was in a difficult situation, but we are consistently here supporting our clients,” Connelly said.
ING sees robust commercial growth in the country that reflects huge opportunities for investors, he stressed.
“In that sense, when you enter into contractual obligations in the Philippines and you buy something, you’ll feel comfortable that the support system and the commercial system supports that. Certainly, that gives comfort if you’ll enter into long-term investment. I commend the country in that sense,” he said.
Mark Newman, the bank’s commercial banking Asia chief executive officer, said ING is clear about its strategy in the Philippines —to focus on pure banking. He made the statement in light of the upcoming regime change by mid-2016.
“We are very excited about what we can do here. But the world changes on a regular basis and the regulatory regime changes, but based on what we see here, we see ample opportunity for growth. So we’d rather focus on what we’re comfortable with and what we know than entering into new areas,” he said.
ING Bank set up its representative office in the Philippines in 1990 and became the first foreign bank to upgrade itself into a universal bank in 1995.
Since then, ING Bank has grown into a key player in financial markets, mergers and acquisitions, and specialized sector financing, such as in power, utilities and infrastructure.