STATE-RUN Land Bank of the Philippines (LANDBANK) is planning to open 23 new branches and other offices this year and set up 190 automated teller machines (ATMs) to expand its physical presence even as its online reach surged last year.

The planned expansion will involve 16 branches and branch-lite units, five agricultural hubs and two mobile branches to bring the bank’s brick-and-mortar branch network to 500 and double its agri-hubs to 10, LANDBANK said in a statement on Thursday.

LANDBANK’s agri-hubs offer mixed banking and lending services for borrowers from the agriculture sector, such as farmers and fisherfolk.

Meanwhile, the new mobile branches, which are meant to provide uninterrupted banking services to areas hit by natural disasters, will be located in a branch in San Pablo, Laguna and at the Bajada branch in Davao del Sur.  

The bank is also looking to install 190 new ATMs across the country, including 10 mobile ATMs, to bring its total network to over 2,500 by the year’s end.

Its total lending centers will reach 57 this year as it plans to add two new ones to extend more loans to small farmers and fishers, agrarian reform beneficiaries, small and medium enterprises and local government units.

“LANDBANK remains aggressive in expanding its extensive network to serve more clients and meet emerging needs. While the usage of our e-banking channels continue to rise under the new normal, our branches and other physical touch-points remain equally important in servicing our clients, especially those in the countryside,” LANDBANK President and CEO Cecilia C. Borromeo was quoted as saying.

The state-run bank has waived fees for online interbank fund transfers via InstaPay and PESONet until end-March for transactions done through its mobile application.

It said it waived fund transfer fees for 9,353,938 online transactions worth P50.32 billion from March 18 to Dec. 31 last year amid the coronavirus pandemic. This resulted in P223 million in foregone revenues for the bank, it noted.

The bank saw its online transactions rise by 21% in volume and by 36% in value last year against 2019 levels.

“The LANDBANK Mobile Banking App recorded the highest volume of transactions of 71.9 million amounting to P85.12 billion,” it said.

LANDBANK’s net income dropped by 7.57% to P17.1 billion in 2020 from P18.5 billion the prior year. — Beatrice M. Laforga