Fewer bank branches were built in ’21–BSP 

AMID the pandemic disruption and the increasing popularity of digital banking and online payments in the last two years, local banks have scaled down their physical network expansion in 2021, data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) showed.

The entire local banking system added a net of 110 bank branches in 2021, bringing the total nationwide physical banking network to 13,154 bank branches during the year. This increase is lower compared to the 174 bank branches added to the total nationwide physical banking network in 2020.

Expansion of bank branches has sharply decreased during the pandemic years of 2020 and 2021. Before Covid-19 hit, banks were adding around 500 to 600 new branches per year. In particular, the banks added 506 bank branches to the total nationwide physical banking network in 2019; 571 in 2018 and 615 in 2017.

Broken down, for 2021, the universal and commercial banking group only added 9 branches throughout the year, thrift banks added 53 branches, while the rural and cooperative banking group added 48 branches.

Big banks continue to dominate nationwide, with a total of 7,038 branches by the end-2021.

This is followed by the rural and cooperative banking group with 3,378 branches while thrift banks had 2,738 branches at the end of last year.

Bank branches comprise less than half of the BSP’s supervised financial institutions, as pawnshop branches continue to dominate the local financial scene with 15,388 branches at the end of 2021.

In his latest speech, BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno reported that their current assessment shows that the Philippine banking system is “sound and stable” amid the stressors of the pandemic.

“Indicators show the continued growth of assets, deposits, and capital, as well as net profit and liquidity buffers,” Diokno said.

“Banks have ample loan-loss reserves and a manageable loan quality. These allow the banking system to support the economy,” he added.

Bank credit also grew seven consecutive months from August 2021, reaching 8.8 percent last February, after contracting during the pandemic.

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