METROPOLITAN BANK & Trust Co. (Metrobank) is targeting double-digit growth in its new digital accounts following the expansion of its mobile services.

Metrobank said in a virtual press conference on Thursday that it targets double-digit growth in the number of clients opening bank accounts via its mobile application Earnest.

The Ty-led bank said it saw enrolments for digital accounts jump 181% to 149,000 between January and September from just 53,000 previously. In the nine-month period, the bank also posted a 200% growth in mobile application downloads, it said.

Metrobank currently has over four million customers, of which 23% have shifted to digital accounts, it said.

Earnest allows clients to open deposit accounts with an interest rate of 1.125% per annum and links customers to Metrobank Online. Its additional features include setting up time deposit accounts, transferring funds using QR codes, and managing unit investment trust funds.

Metrobank said while young consumers are often the early users of mobile applications, it sees older generations following suit due to restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We found that there is a predisposition [among those] born in the digital world to be digital-savvy. But when we talk about the mindset of the people who want to move forward, the mindset of learning quickly cuts across the spectrum,” Metrobank Chief Marketing Officer Digs A. Dimagiba said in the briefing.

Mr. Dimagiba said the growth in the use of the bank’s mobile application will also be driven by financial education tools on the Earnest website, such as information on savings, investments, loans, and insurance.

“When we were talking about Earnest, we realized we need to find new ways to talk to the customers of today and tomorrow. It’s constructed around delivering bite-size education. Now it’s constructed around giving you easy tools to start your [financial] journey in a hassle-free way,” he said.

Metrobank expects more deposits next year following the double-digit growth seen in the first nine months to P1.7 trillion.

“Our capital ratio is very high near 20% [or 19.9%]. Our deposits also grew 10% which puts us to recover next year,” Metrobank Senior Vice-President and Head of Strategic Planning Jette C. Gamboa said in the same briefing.

Ms. Gamboa said the bank will continue to monitor economic developments to sustain its capital position and adjust reserves for bad loans.

“We’ll consider how the GDP (gross domestic product) will go in the next quarter. We balance that with our loans, earnings as we want to be ahead as much as possible. Provisioning as a process is very dynamic,” she said.

She added that Metrobank expects its nonperforming loan (NPL) ratio to end at 3% this year and rise to 6-5% in 2021.

The bank’s NPL ratio rose to 2.25% at end-September from 1.52% a year earlier. It set aside loan loss provisions of P35.4 billion in the first nine months, almost five times the year-ago figure of P7.8 billion, amid an economic slowdown due to the pandemic.

Metrobank’s attributable net profit declined by 77.6% to P1.92 billion in the third quarter as the coronavirus outbreak continued to affect its operations. This brought its income for the first nine months to P11 billion, down 48.8% year on year.

The bank’s shares closed at P42.80 apiece on Thursday, gaining five centavos or 0.12% from the previous finish. — KKTJ