Operational lapses caused BPI system glitch — BSP

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By Melissa Luz T. Lopez, Senior Reporter

THE CENTRAL BANK has found operational lapses that led to a two-day internal glitch at the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) last June, a senior official said, as the regulator completes its investigation into the incident.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) is still determining whether it would impose sanctions on the lender, Deputy Governor Chuchi G. Fonacier told reporters in an ambush interview.

“The BSP investigation is complete… We’re still having this internal meeting before we elevate [to the Monetary Board],” Ms. Fonacier said, noting that the central bank will release a public statement on their final decision involving the Ayala-led lender.

The Monetary Board is the highest decision-making body in the BSP, which sets regulatory standards and hands out penalties if deemed necessary.

BPI encountered a two-day downtime in its online and automated teller machine platforms after an internal error resulted in incorrect account balances reflected in about 1.5 million customer accounts on June 7-8.

It took the bank around 37 hours to correct the account balances, which saw some P46 million mistakenly withdrawn from bank accounts. BPI officials have dubbed the incident as an “internal data processing error” due to human error, as it dismissed fears that the bank’s systems have been hacked.

BPI is the country’s fourth-biggest bank in asset terms. It reported a P17.05 billion net income as of end-September as loans grew by a fifth to reach P1.12 trillion.

On Tuesday, the BSP announced a set of sanctions imposed on Metropolitan Bank & Trust Co. (Metrobank) over the P1.75-billion internal fraud case unearthed in July. The central bank reprimanded bank directors and officers, and handed 90-day suspensions to top officials including President Fabian S. Dee and Vicente R. Cuna, Jr. of the Philippine Savings Bank, who was previously head of Metrobank’s corporate banking group.

The BSP also asked Metrobank to set aside P4.45 billion in additional capital to cover for “higher operational risk” after internal checks and balances failed to detect the bogus loans in multiple tranches worth P30 million, which reportedly allowed bank vice president Maria Victoria S. Lopez to pocket the money.

The central bank has been raising its standards to manage operational risks, as it seeks to fortify the banking system.