Changes in the global landscape and growing demand for better financial services are pushing banks to beef up their operations and fortify their relevance in society.
To remain resilient and in order to weather the challenging times, banks must strengthen their core businesses by either improving their product offerings or expanding their market reach. Above all, however, they must strive to preserve their clients’ trust because it is the ultimate sustaining factor for a bank’s success.
Sadly, though, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas —through its Financial Consumer Affairs Group—has received a total of 2,446 complaints, inquiries and requests from bank clients last year, according to a recent report. These figures show that there is still a lot to be done in terms of consumer welfare protection.
Accordingly, Congress and the central bank have launched initiatives to create and implement a Consumer Protection Framework that would shield bank clients from risks and provide assistance should problems arise.
Both lawmakers and regulators agree that it is about time we put consumer protection measures in place, and, of course, require strict compliance with it. Such initiatives are especially imperative in the rural banking industry where clients are usually from the low-income and marginalized sectors.
Because the money entrusted to us, rural banks, is undoubtedly hard earned, we shall commit to protect our bank clients from risks – including risk from themselves, from professional malpractice and from third-party thieves.
Protecting clients against themselves essentially means preventing them from making the wrong decisions. Thus, for every transaction, rural banks—and other banks, in general—should avoid vague fine print language and ensure that their clients clearly understand the costs and benefits of each product before availing of it. They must create a deeper relationship with their clients than just being a financial partner to them by imparting financial advice, education and direction in a sincere effort to uplift their lives.
Rural banks must likewise ensure that their officers and employees practice honesty, fairness and transparency at all times and in every aspect of any transaction, including the computational methods for interest rates and other charges.
Lastly, they should protect their clients from third-party theft such as through ATM fraud by creating or maintaining a well-secured data system, and conducting consumer education programs on the use of innovative banking methods.
As advocates of rural development and people empowerment, rural banks are expected to work for the benefit of the poor and their communities. We shall do our best to serve this purpose and protect them.