By Raymond Michaels, International Banker
Above all other Philippine banks, the Land Bank of the Philippines (LANDBANK) has stayed deeply rooted in countryside development and in helping grow the economy and the nation at large. Its presence in the remotest regions of the archipelago, unmatched by any other bank, attests to its broad mission of helping to uplift the lives of generations of Filipinos. In its 53rd year, LANDBANK is more committed than ever to growing bigger and stronger together with its clients and partners. It continues to expand its credit outreach to its priority sectors—such as farmers and fishers, microenterprises as well as small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), countryside financial institutions, and agri- and aqua- businesses—whilst also establishing significant technological innovations and strategic partnerships that have crucially assisted the Philippine government’s most comprehensive development programmes and platforms for inclusive growth.
The bank was first established by the government back in 1963, largely to provide financial support to purchase agricultural estates as well as redistribute land amongst smaller landholders. Since then, it has expanded its operations to such an extent that as of June 2016, it is considered the fourth-largest bank in the Philippines in terms of total assets, loans and deposits, and the sixth largest in terms of total capital. Indeed, the last five years have seen the bank notch up astounding growth figures, including net income rising to P13.3 billion in 2015 from P8.06 billion in 2010, assets increasing to P1.28 trillion from P569 billion, and deposits climbing to P1.0513 trillion from P433.5 billion. Furthermore, since 2012 LANDBANK has been the highest cash-dividend remitter to the government—a way to contribute revenue-generation initiatives for the expansion of development projects and social services. The most recent figures have continued to be just as impressive—2016’s first semester saw profits up to P7.4 billion, 10 percent higher than the bank’s semestral income target of P6.7 billion. Revenues from loans also jumped 16 percent as the bank’s gross-loan portfolio grew to P490.6 billion from P414 billion in June 2015.
Congruent with its continuing goal to sustain financial viability so it can pursue its development mandate is the bank’s commitment to provide excellent service. It remains aggressive in enhancing and accelerating the development of new products and channels, while building and maintaining strategic alliances and partnerships in the delivery of bank services and programs.
LANDBANK prides itself on using the best technology solutions available in order to deliver responsive financial and support services to clients. An example of such technology-driven offerings is the award-winning LANDBANK Mobile Loan Saver (LMLS), the first paperless, fully electronic salary loan-application and -processing service in the country. What makes LMLS truly innovative is that it leverages on mobile technology in order to extend banking services to areas in which most banks don’t have branches. Apart from making loan applications quick and easy, the Mobile Loan Saver encourages more Filipinos to save by including an auto-save feature that allows them to automatically debit a pre-selected amount from their enrolled LANDBANK accounts. This is part of the bank’s thrust to promote sound financial consciousness. The LANDBANK Mobile Loan Saver has been recognized by the GSMA Mobile Money Programme as the first of its kind in the world for being a three-in-one mobile loan-application service with insurance and auto-savings build-up features.
LANDBANK also contributes to the government’s aggressive efforts to improve the ease of doing business in the country. It makes available a menu of electronic payment and banking services that links various markets through technology, offering greater convenience for its clients, especially for government contributions and payments.
Through the years, LANDBANK has been recognized by various award-giving bodies for its innovative programs and customer-service efforts, including the Bank of the Year award from The Banker in 2014. It was also awarded Best Commercial Bank – Philippines in 2015 by International Banker. More recently, it was conferred with the Quest for Excellence Award by the Asia Pacific Quality Organization in the Global Performance Excellence Awards (GPEA). It was also recognized by International Banker as the Customer Service Provider of the Year Asia 2016, among others.
Of all LANDBANK’s attributes, one could argue that it has been its dedication to achieving the highest standards of customer service that has set it apart from its banking peers in recent years. The bank recognizes the importance of not only listening to its customers’ needs but anticipating them as well. In practice, this is done through the consistent maintenance and improvement of multi-customer touchpoints, which include the presence of a client-assistance desk in every branch, as well as a customer-care service that operates 24/7 to address customer concerns and complaints. LANDBANK customers can also express their concerns through various customer-care platforms and channels such as telephone, email, LANDBANK’s website and social-media accounts. Relationship management is likewise deemed as one of the key components of LANDBANK’s overall customer service, with the development of long-term business relationships often kept in mind as the underlying goal. Relationship officers are assigned to manage specific customer segments to ensure that each customer receives a more tailored, personalised service. This in turn allows LANDBANK to ascertain trends and gaps between customer needs and what is being offered, and ultimately to continue to meet client requirements. In essence, therefore, LANDBANK strives to be a customer-centric and service-oriented financial institution, and instils a culture within its branches and its employees to achieve this.
Employees are exposed to continuous training and development programmes throughout their careers to equip them with the desired competencies for the delivery of quality service to the bank’s clients. This includes several opportunities to hone their technical, leadership and behavioural skills through programmes such as Customer Service Excellence, Professional Image and Client Relationship Management.
With a government-backed mandate to provide financial accessibility to remote areas, such commitment is definitely desirable. While it has been successful in being the first and only Philippine bank to penetrate all of the provinces in the country, LANDBANK invests in alternative-banking channels to bring banking services to as many Filipinos across the country as possible, especially those in far-flung cities and municipalities. In areas in which it has no branches and there are no deposit-taking conduits, it has established other banking offices called LANDBANK Easy Access Facilities (LEAFs) to allow clients to conduct non-transactional banking activities such as ATM withdrawals, self-service cash deposits, submission of loan applications and requirements for account openings, and inquiries about loans, savings and other products and services.
The bank also places the utmost priority on developing responsive products that anticipate and address the needs of its clients. One such product is the LANDBANK Calamity Rehabilitation Support (CARES) program, launched right after the devastation of Typhoon Yolanda in the southern part of the country, that provides financial support to victims to help them recover from the damages brought about by natural calamities and disasters. The program is now the bank’s umbrella program to help those affected by typhoons, floods, earthquakes and other calamities get back on their feet and rebuild their lives through credit assistance. These efforts align with the bank’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs, which include disaster response as one of four key focus areas (the others being livelihood, education and environment). The approach to disaster response adopted by LANDBANK is to ensure that its relief assistance is there to support those affected for periods beyond the immediate short-term.
A partnership with the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation and the international non-governmental organisation (NGO) Waves for Water is proving successful in this regard—a programme has been created that donates water-filtration units to areas that lose access to clean water due to typhoons. These portable water-filtration systems can purify up to one million gallons of rainwater, and even flood water. The programme is set to expand significantly in scope so that water-filtration systems are distributed not only to typhoon-stricken areas but also to far-flung provinces that do not have stable access to potable water.
Under the livelihood area, the bank’s Gawad Kabuhayan programme provides a key “recovery through livelihood” component within the NGO Habitat for Humanity’s overall disaster-recovery programme to help victims get back on their feet.
LANDBANK’s most praiseworthy contribution to the country’s disaster-relief efforts in recent years was in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda in 2013. Apart from providing financial aid and assisting in the packing and loading of relief goods, LANDBANK immediately deployed its mobile ATMs to the affected areas. This enabled the bank to extend much-needed financial services to the damaged areas, in which all banks had ceased to operate; LANDBANK was the first bank to restore banking services in the typhoon-damaged areas.
By 2018, LANDBANK aims to be the top universal bank of the Philippines, promoting inclusive growth and improving quality of life, especially in the countryside, through the delivery of innovative financial solutions. Services will also continue to be designed with a financial-inclusion objective in mind that extends to all provinces, cities and municipalities in the Philippines. The bank’s customer service will be crucial in the eventual achievement of such aspirations, and it is expected to undergo further significant evolutionary steps over the next year or so. The emphasis is now firmly on the development of pioneering products designed to anticipate client needs, as well as the improvement and acceleration of those processes required for new product and channel development.
Through remaining at the forefront of global banking-industry standards, moreover, the bank will continue to invest in technology and employee training to further bolster customer-service standards. Indeed, the bank has recently launched a new employee-engagement program that will integrate all of its workers’ efforts in order to establish a new high cultural watermark of service-delivery excellence.
While the road ahead remains challenging, LANDBANK could not be better positioned to move onward to even greener pastures, and to comfortably achieve its 2018 targets.