THE Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) plans to trim its branch network by at least 100 as it proceeds with its merger with wholly owned thrift bank BPI Family Savings Bank over the next 18 months.
Under One BPI, the remaining branches will be transformed mostly into stores where people can shop for financial advice and financial products, said BPI president and chief executive officer Jose Teodoro “TG” Limcaoco.
Some branches will be more digital than others because clients in some areas might be more receptive to dealing with a screen. Some branches will also provide face-to-face interaction with a relationship manager.
“I think there’s no doubt that there are many places where a Family Bank and a BPI branch are near each other,” Limcaoco said in a virtual roundtable discussion with SunStar.
“What we’re doing is we’re looking at places where we can be more efficient,” he added.
He said the rise of mobile banking amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic has given them an opportunity to combine branches in some areas.
Consumer visits decreased by at least 30 percent in some branches and up to 70 percent in others as fewer people go to the branches to make a deposit or withdraw or just check their balance, he said. These transactions may already be done through mobile apps.
“The traffic has really been reduced at the branches. So this gives us an opportunity to look at places where we can combine branches. And therefore... that makes it even a better case with Family Bank and BPI because you can literally combine without losing the identity,” he said.
Despite the reduced branch traffic, Limcaoco said he believes that “branches will continue to remain a good place where people can learn about financial goals, financial planning and financial investments.”
“That’s where I see the new role of branches. A branch will be where customers can learn about new instruments, make investments, ask questions and that’s where we look to position our branches,” he added.
Although BPI will be the surviving entity when the merger is completed in 2022, not all the BPI Family branches will be closed since some of its branches may be better situated than some BPI branches.
BPI, the oldest bank in the Philippines and in Southeast Asia, is still securing regulatory approvals for its merger with BPI Family, which it announced in January 2021.
Based on its 2020 integrated report, it has 1,176 branches and international offices, and nearly 20,000 employees.
In the first quarter of 2021, the Ayala-led bank posted a net income of P5 billion. Total revenues declined by 1.5 percent to P24.3 billion. Total loans as of March 31, 2021 stood at P1.4 trillion, a 5.0 percent decline year-on-year while total assets were almost flat at P2.2 trillion.
BPI Family is the largest thrift bank in the country with P287 billion in assets, P235 billion in deposits and P227 billion in loans. It has around 3,000 employees.
“What we want to do is put them together so that One BPI will cater to both consumer and corporate clients. It also solves the problem of many people making the mistake of going to the wrong bank because both have the same logo. This is really just solidifying the identity in our customers’ minds,” Limcaoco said. (MVI)