THE Philippine National Bank (PNB) said it is strengthening its rural banking operations to prepare for stiffer competition ahead of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations economic integration in 2015.
“We are strengthening our foothold and the relations that have been built by the branches in the provinces to prepare us for the Asean integration,” said Horacio Cebrero III, PNB executive vice president and head of the bank’s Treasury Group.
To date, Cebrero said 60 percent of PNB’s total branches are located in the provinces while the rest are in Metro Manila.
“Our bigger presence outside Metro Manila, which has been growing substantially, gives us an advantage point toward working for preparing ourselves for Asean integration,” he added.
Meanwhile, Jovencio Hernandez, PNB executive vice president and Retail Banking Group head, said one of the key steps the bank has taken to prepare for the regional integration is to come up with financial inclusion programs focused on tapping the unbanked population of the country.
Hernandez noted that out of 11,634 towns in the Philippines, 37 percent or 611 towns have no bank presence and about 40 million Filipinos are considered unbanked or underbanked.
“Financial inclusion—that has to be a major program for most of the local banks. I think PNB is ahead of that particular program. There are at least two products that we have introduced in the market,” he said.
He said one program is ATMSafe, a non-life insurance product that replaces lost money withdrawn from an ATM due to theft. The insurance premium is only P12 and covers losses of up to P50,000 for a period of 30-days from the date of premium payment.