AT 170, Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), the first bank in the Philippines and in Asia, remains a tower of strength. Appropriately, BPI's anniversary mass celebrant Jose Fuerte Cardinal Advincula Jr., chose the tower -- a feature common to the logos of BPI, the Archdiocese of Manila and the cardinal's personal coat of arms. The tower, the cardinal said, symbolizes a strong fortress against the enemy. For BPI, the enemy consists of the various natural and man-made calamities throughout its history -- the Philippine Revolution of 1898, the Philippine American War, the first and second World Wars, the martial law years, the 1990 Luzon earthquake, the 1991 Mt. Pinatubo eruption, the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the Taal eruptions, the super typhoons that visited the country and now, Covid-19. Repeatedly, BPI has conquered the enemy.

Observers remarked that it was most fitting that the anniversary mass, held August 2 and attended online by hundreds of BPI's officials and staff, was celebrated by the newly-installed Archbishop of Manila. According to BPI President and CEO Jose Teodoro "TG" Limcaoco, himself the newly-installed president of BPI (he just completed his 100th day in office), the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila (RCAM) has been part of BPI since the beginning and continuous to remain as a substantial partner of the bank.

Cardinal Advincula seized the opportunity to thank BPI, as part of the Ayala Group, and the whole business community as well, for the private sector's response to Covid-19. The Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation, co-chaired by BPI Chairman Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala (JAZA), launched Project Ugnayan, which distributed P1 billion worth of gift certificates, through Caritas Manila, to approximately 5.3 million individuals in Metro Manila. The Cardinal quoted JAZA as saying: "This unprecedented assembly of so many business corporations and families, coming to the assistance of the most vulnerable in our society speaks of the heart and generosity of the business community."

BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno, meanwhile, congratulated BPI for its innovative banking services and products but most of all for its significant contribution in support of BSP's thrust for digitalization and financial inclusion.

In his own anniversary message, JAZA described BPI as an integral part of the Philippine story. In its early years, BPI, then known as El Banco Espanol Filipino de Isabela II, printed the paper money circulated in the Philippines. It was called the Pesos Fuertes (Strong Pesos). JAZA attributed BPI's longevity to its "culture of innovation, customer obsession and reinvention".

On its 170th anniversary, TG Limcaoco described BPI as "a bank in good shape". He happily reported to BPI unibankers that BPI recently earned the following accolades: Best Sustainable Bank..... Best Trade Finance Bank... the Best Investment Bank (through BPI Capital), the Best SME Bank (through BPI Family) and, hopefully soon, The Best CSR Bank (through BPI Foundation).

"It is important that after 170 years, we continue to adapt and to reinvent ourselves, for our clients and our key stakeholders," Limcaoco said. Moving forward, BPI will focus on the following: 1. Digitalization journey. 2. customer service 3. sustainability and 4. consumer banking.

"BPI will strive to become the leading institution in digitalization through the enhancement of current digital platforms and the development of new ones so BPI can cater to all client segments, each client need and every customer journey can be met with the best digital tools and the best customer experience.

"Customer service is about reinventing ourselves- the way we think, the way we act, especially towards our clients. Let us do it right. Let us make it easy and let us be nice.

"Sustainability is all about responsible banking and responsible operations. To be sustainable, BPI is integrating to the bank's goals the formula ESG pls E, where the last ‘E’ stands for economic growth. Micro-entrepreneurs form the backbone of our economy and the more we support them through affordable loans, the better for our country. Finally, the Philippine consumer is the future of our country and of BPI. Demographic studies show that the middle class will grow both in wealth and in the number in the future. BPI Family Bank has been focused on consumer banking and we will bring that focus to BPI."

Breaking records

Hidilyn Diaz established a new Olympic record by lifting 127 kgs. Her cumulative score of 224 kgs for three attempts was also an Olympic record. President Duterte broke the Philippine record for the longest SONA by speaking for 2 hours and 46 minutes.

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