AFTER decades of service, rural bankers are now setting out with a new perspective and renewed vigor after attending a two-day symposium entitled, “Rural Banks: Reliable Partners of Local Communities for Growth.”
The well-attended annual symposium, held last November 10-11 at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City, commemorates the 57th charter anniversary of the rural banking industry. The event was designed to facilitate capacity building and knowledge sharing among rural bankers, regulators and industry partners. The symposium’s theme, on the other hand, points to the success of rural banking and the role it should aspire to uphold.
Taking into account industry hurdles and the evolving financial landscape, topics for this year’s symposium focused on possible opportunities for growth and in-depth explanations of policy reforms, such as amendments on the minimum capitalization and credit risk management guidelines.
The roster of speakers for the event included experts from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp., the Credit Information Corp., and state think-tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies.
In his welcome remarks, Rural Bankers Association of the Philippines (RBAP) president Jose Misael B. Moraleda underlined the importance of reviewing internal controls and processes, especially during times of crises. He also urged bankers to innovate their business models, taking advantage of the uniqueness of the localities they serve.
To remain relevant, Moraleda said rural banks should study their locality’s demographics, understand their specific needs and use that awareness to improve or develop their products and services.
Meanwhile, in his keynote speech, BSP Deputy Governor Nestor A. Espenilla, Jr. allayed fears of many rural bankers about losing their significance in the banking system and the entry of stronger competition. He said such fears are unfounded and that rural banks have already established a deep relationship with their clients which new players cannot easily replace.
Espenilla also explained the central bank’s decision to hike the capitalization requirements of rural banks. The move, he said, was actually done to prepare banks from unpredictable volatilities and not to drive them away from the industry.
He also said stressed the importance of consumer protection so that banks can become more effective partners of financial consumers.
Among others, Espenilla said banks should protect the privacy of their clients, provide all relevant information prior to closing every transaction, and guide their customers to determining the right product fit for their needs.
The symposium—one of RBAP’s major events, the other being the annual convention—was attended by more than 350 rural bankers.