Nora Tamba writes for consumers about banking in the Philippines.
BDO, Metrobank, Landbank, BPI and PNB
BDO, Metrobank, Landbank, BPI and PNB are the five biggest banks in the Philippines. They're all trillionaire banks and all are universal banks. Landbank is government-owned while the four others are stock corporations.
BDO has been the fastest-growing bank since BDO was acquired from its original owners by the SM Group, the biggest shopping mall operator in the country.
BDO's owners leveraged their mall assets by putting one or two BDO branches in each of its many malls throughout the country, serving customers up to early evening, all days of the year. They fulfilled the banking needs of mall goers and OFW families who receive their remittances through banks.
Based on total assets as of December 2019, the Top 20 banks in the Philippines are:
- Security Bank
- Robinsons Bank
For ordinary people like me, the best banks are the ones that:
- offer various banking services for free or at low costs
- offer convenience to customers, such as lots of branches, ATMs and longer banking hours
- offer safe investment opportunities
- give back to the community
- contribute to the stability of the country's banking system
Because not one bank offers all the services that we want, we usually have accounts in more than one bank. These banks offer a lot of services, including Internet banking, investment options and private and corporate banking, but we'll mention only some services that interest us or are unique to one bank.
What We Like About BDO
- Longer banking hours
- Open on Saturdays, Sundays and most holidays (for branches located in SM malls). Several branches not inside SM malls are also open on Saturdays.
- Lots of branches and ATMs -- Has more than 1,300 branches in the Philippines, more than 4,000 ATMs, nearly 400 in-branch Cash Accept machines and 20 remittance and representative offices worldwide as of December 2019.
- Has 2 full-service branches abroad: Hong Kong and Singapore
- The first Philippine bank to offer online money transfer from a BDO account for Cash Pickup at popular pawnshops (Cebuana Lhuillier, MLhuillier, Palawan Pawnshop, Villarica Pawnshop and RD Pawnshop), partner rural banks and SM Business Centers.
- One of the few Philippine banks that partner with global money transfer companies like Xoom and Moneygram and US bank Wells Fargo*. For Xoom transfers, you can get your remittance in US dollars as long as you have a BDO account and your money was sent in US dollars.
*Remittance partners of Xoom: BDO, Metrobank, RCBC, BDO Network Bank, Cebuana Lhuillier, MLhuillier, LBC and SM Business Center or Forex
*Remittance partners of Wells Fargo: BDO, BPI, Cebuana Lhuillier, MLhuillier
The location of BDO branches in SM malls evidently helped speed up BDO's growth. Because a great number of Filipinos go to the mall often, they choose to open BDO accounts so they can bank and shop at the same time under the same roof. It's also very convenient for OFW families receiving remittances from abroad. Certainly, it's safer withdrawing money inside the safety of the mall, including exchanging dollars, pounds or yens.
How BDO Gives Back to the Community
The BDO Foundation runs:
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- a partnership with Gawad Kalinga
- an SME entrepreneurship program
BDO's majority owner, the SM Group, runs the SM College Scholarship program.
What We Like About Metrobank
- One of only 2 Philippine banks that have a branch in New York City and the US and that have branches in many countries. The other is PNB.
- Offers a Zero-Fee credit card—Its M Free Mastercard is "Forever Free" of annual fee. This is significant as most credit cards typically charge 1,400 pesos or more for annual membership.
- Has more than 950 domestic branches, more than 2,300 ATMs, more than 170 Cash-Accept machines and more than 30 foreign branches and offices as of December 2019
- One of only 3 banks that releases Xoom US-dollar remittances in US dollars to recipients
How Metrobank gives back to the community
Metrobank Foundation runs the following programs:
- Search for Outstanding Teachers
- Metrobank Scholarship Program
- Outstanding Policement in Service
- Outstanding Philippines Soldiers
What We Like About Landbank
It's one of a few banks that still offer an ATM savings account with a maintaining balance requirement of only 500 pesos.
Its mandate is to help farmers and agricultural businesses.
What We Like About BPI
- More than 800 branches in the Philippines, Hong Kong and Europe, and close to 3,000 ATMs and Cash Deposit machines as of 2017.
- The first Philippine bank to install Cash Deposit machines where one can deposit peso bills without using an envelope and with the ATM deposit instantly credited. Many of their deposit machines can be accessed any time of the day or night. Now BDO and Metrobank have their own deposit machines, but they're usually installed inside branches and not available after banking hours.
- Its subsidiary BPI Family Bank offers a low-interest Mastercard BPI Family Credit Card. Monthly finance charge is 2%, computed from posting date. Annual fee is 1,000 pesos, free for the first year.
*Notes: The BPI Classic Card, which offered a lower monthly interest rate and lower-cost installment and loan features, has been discontinued by BPI. BPI offered other types of credit cards to Classic cardholders to which existing BPI transferred Classic payables and retained whatever rates were given during Classic transactions until such transactions were fully paid.
How BPI Gives Back to the Community
It holds the annual Search for 10 Outstanding Expat Pinoy Children, and its BPI Foundation runs:
- microfinance trainings in partnership with Ateneo de Manila University in major cities
- Show Me, Teach Me, SME Empowering Entrepreneurs
- BPI-DOST Science Awards
- BPI College Scholarship program
- Climate Change Project
What We Like About PNB
- PNB is one of only 2 banks that have branches in the USA. The other one is Metrobank. PNB is more active as it has many remittance offices around the US and it has a branch in Los Angeles, a branch and a sub-branch in New York City.
- PNB is also one of only 2 banks that operates in many countries. The other one is Metrobank.
Almost two million Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) are currently working worldwide as engineers, nurses, teachers, seamen, doctors, dentists, physical therapists, domestic helpers,welders, electricians, machine operators, etc. Since they remit large amounts of money to their families monthly, banks have crafted special services for them.
Aside from the usual bank to bank transfer or remittance service to bank transfer, these banks also offer accounts designed for OFW clients and their families:
- Pamana Savings Account with Free Insurance
- Pamana Padala Account with Income Continuation Insurance
- Padala Moneyger
- BDO Kabayan Savings Account (Peso)
- BDO Kabayan Savings Account (US Dollar)
- Enrollment for Free Life Insurance Coverage
- BDO Remit Status Inquiry online service
- OFW Peso Savings Account
- OFW Dollar Savings Account
- Metrobank Remittance Inquiry online service
- Bagong Bayani ATM Account (in peso or US dollar)
Facts That May Interest You
In the Philippines, there are 541 banks (branches not counted) as of December 2019:
- 21 universal banks (6 are branches of foreign banks and 3 are government banks)
- 25 commercial banks (20 are foreign-owned: 2 subsidiaries and 18 branches)
- 48 thrift banks (includes private development banks)
- 422 rural banks (includes cooperative banks)
*The number of thrift and rural banks has decreased over the years due to closures, mergers and acquisitions.
BPI was the first bank in the Philippines and, arguably, in all of Southeast Asia. It began as El Banco Espanol Filipino de Isabel 2 in 1851 as a Spanish-owned bank. In 1907, the bank became a Philippine institution, and in 1912, it became the Bank of Philippine Islands (BPI).
Among the top stockholders of BPI as of December 2009 are the:
- Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila
- Mercury Group
The Metrobank Foundation owns the:
- Manila Doctors Hospital along U.N.
- Manila Doctors College along Macapagal Ave.
Metrobank also owns 30-percent of Toyota Motor Philippines Corporation.
Among the top stockholders of Metrobank as of June 2010 are:
- Federal Homes
- Home Development Mutual Fund
- Insular Life Assurance Co.
Among the top stockholders of BDO as of September 2010 are:
- International Finance Corp. (U.S.)
- United Overseas Bank (Singaporean)
- Insular Life Assurance Co.
Curiously, in all three banks' Lists of the Top 100 Stockholders, Non-Filipino Philippine Central Depository Nominee Corp. shareholders account for the biggest number of shares.
- For BPI, non-Filipino PCDNC shareholders ranked No. 1 as of December 2009.
- For Metrobank, non-Filipino PCDNC shareholders account for 28.55 percent of the total, and ranked No. 1 as of June 2010.
- For BDO, non-Filipino PCDNC shareholders account for 20.47 percent of the total, and third in ranking behind SM Investments and Filipino PCDNC shareholders.
This could mean though that Philippine banks are seen as strong and stable by foreign investors. Besides, PCDNC shareholders don't grant their voting rights to PCDNC.
Of course, many know that:
- BDO is controlled by Henry Sy Family's SM Group
- BPI is controlled by the Ayala Group
- Metrobank is controlled by George Ty Family's group
- PNB is controlled by Lucio Tan, owner of PAL and Fortune Tobacco.
- China Bank is controlled by Henry Sy Family's SM Group
- Security Bank is controlled by Frederick Dy and Japan's The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ. SSS also owns 2.65% of the bank.
- Union Bank is c