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Robinsons Bank to open more branches

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ROBINSONS BANK Corp. is set to open more branches this year as it intends to expand its market reach.

In a text message, Robinsons Bank President and Chief Executive Officer Elfren Antonio S. Sarte said the Gokongwei-led bank will open 14 more branches in 2018.

“We are opening 14 branches this year. 12 regular [branches] and two branch-lite units,” Mr. Sarte told BusinessWorld on Tuesday.

In an investors briefing in Quezon City last week, Robinsons Bank Chairman Lance Y. Gokongwei said the lender will open “branch-lite offices and 10 full branches nationwide” for the second half of the year as it wants to further expand its reach.

In December, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas approved the option for banks to set up branch-lite units, a smaller and simplified version of a brick-and-mortar bank branch which can be placed in towns and cities which are unbanked or underserved.

Mr. Sarte said on the sidelines of the lender’s investor briefing last week that its first branch-lite office will be located in Batangas.

“We’re opening our one branch-lite in Batangas already. But still, [we’re opening] a mix of full banking licenses and branch-lite [units],” he said.

Currently, Robinsons Bank has 149 branches nationwide.

MERCHANT BUSINESS
Aside from this, Robinsons Bank is also set to venture into the merchant acquiring business by this month.

“We will be both in the physical stores and online stores to approve credit card and debit card transactions,” Mr. Sarte said in the chance interview on Thursday.

A merchant acquiring bank is a lender that processes credit and debit card transactions on behalf of a merchant.

“Because in the card business, there are two sides: the issuing and the acquiring. We decided to be both sides of the segment,” Mr. Sarte noted.

Robinsons Bank said that it will venture into the said business to take advantage the “very large retail footprint” of the Gokongwei group.

According to its Web site, the lender is 60% owned by JG Summit Capital Services Corp. and 40% owned by Robinsons Retail Holdings, Inc.

The lender is raising P5 billion through offering peso-denominated long-term negotiable certificates of deposit (LTNCD) to support the lender’s growth.

The notes will mature in 5.5 years and carry an interest rate of 4.875% to be paid quarterly.

Like regular time deposits offered by banks, LTNCDs offer higher interest rates. However, LTNCDs cannot be pre-terminated but can be sold on the secondary market, making them “negotiable.”

As of end-March, Robinsons Bank was 19th biggest commercial bank in asset terms with P102.9 billion, latest central bank data showed. — Karl Angelo N. Vidal