BANK OF THE Philippine Islands is looking to absorb its thrift unit BPI Family Savings Bank (BFSB) within the year, the listed bank said on Wednesday.

The move will still be subject to shareholder and regulatory approvals, the Ayala-led lender said in a filing with the local bourse.

“As One BPI, our 8.5 million customers will be able to enjoy the full suite of the BPI group’s products, via all our digital and physical channels,” BPI President and Chief Executive Officer Cezar P. Consing said in a statement.

“Similarly, as One BPI, our employees will have the ability to work across a larger, more varied bank, while having continuity of tenure and job level,” he added.

BPI added that the reduction in the gap in the regulatory reserve requirements between commercial banks and thrift banks was also a factor for the move.

It said they hope to complete the merger within the year.

“The integration of both entities will provide considerable advantages to the customers and employees of BPI and BFSB, and present potential synergies that will benefit shareholders,” BPI said.

“If our customers and employees are better off, our shareholders will also benefit. This merger is timed to provide us with the platform to help lead the economic recovery that is sure to come,” Mr. Consing added.

BFSB is the country’s largest thrift bank with P287 billion in assets, P235 billion in deposits and P227 billion in loans, with the lender’s portfolio mostly focused on the housing and auto sector. The thrift bank has about 3,000 employees.

Its parent bank BPI’s net income declined 33.7% to P5.5 billion in the third quarter of 2020 as it set aside higher loan loss reserves amid the pandemic. This brought its net profit for the first nine months to P17.17 billion, down 22.1% from the P22.03 billion booked in the comparable 2019 period.

The listed lender’s shares dropped by P1.30 or 1.54% to close at P83.20 apiece on Wednesday. — L.W.T. Noble