DAVAO CITY – Ayala-led Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) is expanding its network of branches in the Davao Region with up to seven new branches planned for opening by 2018.

BPI Executive Vice-President for Retail Banking Joseph Albert L. Gotuaco said there are currently 24 branches in the region, including three of its thrift bank, the BPI Family Savings Bank.

“We are already on construction, we will be completing construction of another five branches east and west of (Davao) city itself,” Mr. Gotuaco said in a press briefing.

Three of the five new branches will be in Davao City and one each in Panabo City, Davao del Norte, and Mati City, Davao Occidental.

The other provinces that comprise the region are Davao Occidental, Davao del Sur, and Compostela Valley.

Mr. Gotuaco said by the first half of 2018, there would possibly be around 31 branches with the addition of two BPI Family Saving Banks, one in Davao City and another in Compostela Valley.

“That (31 branches) is very big when you put that into context, right now in Cebu we have 36 branches,” he said.

BPI has 829 branches nationwide.

Mr. Gotuaco said the expansion in Davao is brought about by a growing client base, both in the retail and corporate markets.

“When you see that the population is growing and people are beginning to save money, and your companies are trying to invest, trying to bring in factories, offices, malls, tourism investments to the region, you have to follow them,” he added.

In other parts of Mindanao, where BPI currently has a network of 55 branches, Mr. Gotuaco said they are opening new branches before the end of the year in two other major cities and some smaller cities in the SOCCSKSARGEN Region (South Cotabato-Cotabato-Sultan Kudarat-Sarangani-General Santos).

“We’ll be opening a new branch in Iligan and another branch in Cagayan de Oro, also in Tacurong … Next year, probably another 10 to 15 new branches total,” he said.

About P12 million to P13 million is invested to build one branch with a minimum area of 200 square meters. About 50% of the capital expenditure is spent on the technology infrastructure, including the vault system, according to Mr. Gotuaco.

Alongside the branch expansion, Mr. Gotuaco said they are also engaged in training local staff for the corresponding human resources needed.

“More importantly, we are not just investing in branches as branches have to be manned by people and the people are the ones who take care of our customers. So we are also training,” he said.

“This month, we are not doing this in Mindanao yet, but we are training our first batch of officers on Cebu. The fact that we’re training some of our important employees who are not in Metro Manila is a sign of how our focus on the VisMin (Visayas-Mindanao) area is increasing,” he said. – Carmelito Q. Francisco and Maya M. Padillo