Why? Why not? What’s the difference?
These questions have been raised every now and then in the past years, more often in the recent couple of years, as regards to merging BPI and BPI Family Savings Bank (BFSB). Clients have always asked what the difference is between the two, and one of the cheekiest responses I’ve heard is that one is “Islands” and the other is “Family”.
However the client conjures the meaning of this is left to one’s imagination. The observation that there is less traffic in BFSB branches, and thus, less busy allowing for faster transaction processing and more meanigful conversations, may be deemed beneficial or otherwise, depending on where you stand. Many BPI clients have tried to deposit checks at BFSB branch counters and vice versa, only to be turned away, disappointed that this is not possible, and leading them to ask: Why? Why not? What’s the difference?
Let’s put more context to these questions by reliving history and unraveling the changing landscape of banking.
In the ‘70s, the more branches you have, the more clients you can acquire, the more deposits you will get. This was the time when passbooks were the symbols of wealth. Truth be told, the establishment of a bank’s branch in a city signaled progress and more often than not, a bank branch is part of the town plaza together with the municipal hall, the church, and the market.
The Philippines’ over 7,100 islands require a vast physical infrastructure for the people to be sufficiently served. It is no wonder that the biggest banks also have the most number of branches. Having a thrift bank under the marquee brand helped large commercial banks tap into the mass retail market.
This was the way until the arrival of the 24-hour automated teller machines (ATMs) became the talk of the town in the ‘80s when BPI first brought them over.
ATM cards replaced passbooks as the financial fashion statement, and the race for the most number of ATMs began. This battle for presence — be it by building out branches or installing ATMs — was the way to win in banking for decades. The larger the footprint, the bigger the bank, up until the pandemic broke out.
Online banking has been in place since the turn of the century. In 1999, BPI introduced online banking, followed by mobile banking in 2009. After years of encouraging clients to shift from branch to online and mobile banking, we finally experienced the tipping point in 2019 when digital transactions surpassed the number of transactions conducted at the branch.
During the pandemic, digital transactions and the number of clients enrolling in the digital channels surged by 15% and 90%, respectively. This shift to digital is a global phenomenon. The BSP reported that in 2020 alone, over 4 million new electronic financial accounts were created and that the use of electronic payments at the height of the pandemic grew by over 5,000%.
The volume of PesoNet transfers increased by 376% while Instapay transactions rose by 459% year on year. The preference for digital payments can also be seen by the decline in the volume of coin demand by 57%.
With the convenience and accessibility offered by digitalization, the way our customers interact and engage with us will certainly change. What they can do from the comfort of their homes such as pay bills, transfer money, buy goods, and load wallets and mobile, they will.
What they will visit the branch for would most likely be for high value transactions that require depth in expertise and experience. This may be securing investment and insurance advice, applying for a home loan or packaging a business loan.
And so back to the questions - Why? Why not? What’s the difference?
Banking for the Future
The merger which we call #OneBPI is more than an exercise on cost synergies or capital efficiency.
The merger is essentially about changing the way we serve our customers because the way they bank is no longer the same.
Rather than maintaining a large, high-cost physical infrastructure, we choose to invest on our bank personnel and harness their advisory capabilities. We choose to invest on technology and enable more product offerings and functionalities that our clients can do online at their own pace and their own space.
Banking with #OneBPI
#OneBPI is a rallying cry for our employees — to deliver a seamless experience for our clients across all our branches and business centers nationwide.
#OneBPI is a proposition to our clients that only with BPI can they expect the combined power of digital and physical, i.e., phygital, that will allow them to conduct their day-to-day transactions safely and conveniently, and their most important transactions confidently and expertly.
#OneBPI is an aspiration as we aim for market leadership through a consistent and differentiated BPI brand of service.
#OneBPI is a commitment to building a better Philippines and it starts with a united BPI.
With this, I rest my case.
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