RCBC chief expects double-digit growth next year

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 14 2017 12:57 AM | Updated as of Dec 14 2017 07:14 AM

MANILA - Publicly-listed Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) said it expects to book double-digit growth in earnings next year on the back of its robust core businesses as it has moved on from the $81-million cyber heist.

RCBC president and CEO Gil Buenaventura said the country's 8th largest bank in terms of assets sees its net income growing between 10 and 12 percent in 2018.

In the first nine months of 2017, the bank's net income slipped 2.7 percent to P3.4 billion from P3.5 billion in the same period last year due to higher expenses.

"I think the September numbers were slightly above P3 billion, so we are right on track to be close to the budget," he said.

For next year, he said the double-digit increase in net income would be fueled by its lending business that continues to track the industry growth of 20 to 21 percent.

According to him, the bank's loan growth is seen easing to 15 percent next year from the projected 17 percent this year. 

RCBC, he said, plans to shift its focus to consumer lending, particularly auto and housing loans, as well as lending for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which would translate to slower loan growth next year.

"That is our thrust next year, less the big corporates and more on the SMEs and consumer loans," Buenaventura said.

He said RCBC would continue to ride the economic momentum as the country's gross domestic product (GDP) has booked uninterrupted growth for 75 consecutive quarters. 

The Philippines recorded a stronger-than-expected expansion of 6.9 percent in the third quarter from the revised 6.7 percent in the second quarter.

"The GDP growth is still good and consumer spending and consumption just tracks the GDP growth," he said. 

Philippine economic managers expect a seven to eight percent GDP expansion next year.

Likewise, Buenaventura said the passage of the comprehensive tax reform program, dubbed as the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN), would boost consumer spending in the country. 

"The tax reform will, I think, translate to consumer spending, therefore more need for housing, car, among others. I think it will be positive for everybody," he said.

In terms of footprint, the group intends to open 15 branches next year, including five for RCBC, particularly in export processing zones, as well as nine for RCBC Savings Bank.

"I think we are adequately covered nationwide and I think the key to business growth is really to make the branches more effective in cross selling," he added. 

Buenaventura, former president and CEO of state-run Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) before replacing resigned RCBC president and CEO Lorenzo Tan, said the bank has moved on from the incident wherein it was used as a conduit to launder in Philippine casinos $81-million stolen by hackers from Bangladesh Bank in February last year.

"Yeah, I think the numbers will show that after the incident, the bank is making money and doing well. We just have to make sure that we do things better," he said. 

RCBC settled the record P1-billion fine imposed by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) for non-compliance with banking laws and regulations in connection with the money laundering scandal.