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PNB looking to convert holding company to digital-only lender

PHILIPPINE National Bank (PNB) is looking to convert its holding company into a digital lender and will seek the necessary license from the central bank, it said on Wednesday.

“The PNB Board of Directors approved and confirmed the conversion of Allied Integrated Holdings, Inc. (formerly PNB Savings Bank) into a digital bank, subject to regulatory and other necessary approvals,” the Tan-led bank said in a filing on result of their board meeting on Wednesday.

PNB last month said its board of directors approved a plan to create a digital bank during their June 25 meeting.

Sought for comment, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Deputy Governor Chuchi G. Fonacier said PNB has “not yet” communicated with the regulator on its plan.

“In case they will file an application for a digital bank, it will be considered as a new application for a digital bank. The BSP will follow the usual licensing process,” Ms. Fonacier said in a Viber message.

BSP Circular 1105 released in December last year set apart digital banks from other types such as universal, commercial, thrift, rural, cooperative and Islamic lenders.

Digital banks offer financial services, including taking loans and deposits, through online platforms instead of the brick-and-mortar model of conventional lenders.

These online-only banks are required to have a minimum capital of P1 billion.

The Monetary Board earlier capped the licenses it will issue under the new digital banking framework to five, but BSP Governor Benjamin E. Diokno said they could allow more lenders to operate if there is strong demand.

The BSP has so far granted digital bank licenses to the Overseas Filipino Bank, Tonik Digital Bank, Inc. (Philippines), and UNOBANK.

Among local commercial lenders, only UnionBank of the Philippines, Inc. has filed an application for a digital bank license, which is still pending with the BSP.

Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. has also expressed interest in securing a digital bank license. The bank launched its Diskartech app last year where users can create accounts, make deposits, and apply for loans.

PNB’s net profit increased 34% to P1.791 billion in the first quarter from P1.337 billion a year earlier, with lower expenses offsetting the decline in its total operating income.

The Tan-led bank’s shares closed at P22.90 apiece on Wednesday, down by 20 centavos or by 0.87% from the previous day’s finish. — LWTN

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