banks in the Philippines

Heads up, Robinsons Bank customers: How the merger with BPI will affect you

Lance Spencer Yu

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Heads up, Robinsons Bank customers: How the merger with BPI will affect you
(1st UPDATE) BPI says there will be no immediate changes to the accounts of Robinsons Bank clients while the integration process is ongoing

MANILA, Philippines – With the merger between the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) and Robinsons Bank Corporation now official, both banks are gearing up for its implementation.

But how exactly will this merger affect customers, given that the smaller Robinsons Bank will be absorbed by BPI, the surviving entity?

According to a recent notice of merger released by both banks, the rights of depositors will remain the same.

“Except for the transfer of deposits of the depositors from RBank (Robinsons Bank) to BPI upon the effectivity of the Merger, which will result in RBank deposits being assumed by BPI as its deposit liabilities, subject to applicable terms and conditions for the same type of BPI deposits in accordance with pertinent BSP rules and regulations, there shall be no change in the rights of depositors of the Constituent Banks in view of the Merger,” the banks said in a notice of merger released to creditors and depositors of BPI and Robinsons Bank.

With the merger now taking effect, BPI stated that it is implementing activities “to integrate BPI and Robinsons Bank processes” starting first quarter of 2024, which they hope to complete by end-2025.

In the meantime, BPI clarified that there will be no immediate changes to the accounts of Robinsons Bank clients, although they will be notified and updated about changes to their accounts as the integration progresses. 

Robinsons Bank clients are also not yet able to directly transact with BPI for their Robinsons Bank accounts and transactions.

Here is BPI’s full list of frequently asked questions for retail customers, corporate customers, and SME (small and medium enterprises) customers.

Meanwhile, clients of Robinsons Bank Trust will be handled by BPI Wealth – a wholly-owned subsidiary of BPI – following the merger. 

“As the wealth management arm of the bank, BPI Wealth will assume the role of successor trustee, fiduciary, and agent/investment manager for all accounts and unit investment trust funds of RBank Trust upon receipt of the required regulatory approvals,” Robinsons Bank said in a document on frequently asked questions regarding the merger.

Robinsons Bank Trust clients are not required to take any action for their account to be transferred to BPI Wealth. However, those who do not wish for their account to be transferred were given until December 31, 2023, to redeem their investments. If the client took no action by December 31, they will be deemed to have accepted the transfer of their account to BPI Wealth.

Robinsons Bank Trust reassured clients that there will be “no immediate changes” to their accounts, including trust and management fees. Even after the merger, clients will also retain their Robinsons Bank trust sales and account officers, as they will be absorbed as employees of BPI Wealth. However, “future changes” to existing arrangements may be relayed to clients at a later date.

When will the merger happen?

The BPI-Robinsons Bank merger took effect on January 1, 2024.

Both banks have completed all the corporate and government paperwork necessary for the merger. BPI stockholders approved the proposed merger in early January 2023. The banks also obtained the approval of the Philippine Competition Commission and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP). The Securities and Exchange Commission – the last hurdle that stood in the merger’s way – gave its approval on Friday, December 29.

Now that the merger is implemented, Robinsons Bank has been absorbed by BPI and has ceased to exist.

Lance Gokongwei and Robina Gokongwei-Pe attended the “last board meeting of Robinsons Bank” on December 20, 2023. The Gokongwei siblings sit on the bank’s board, with Lance as the chairman and Robina as a director.

Why are the banks merging?

According to BPI president and chief executive officer Jose Teodoro “TG” Limcaoco, the merger would “unlock synergies” across the two banks and the Gokongwei Group’s vast business interests in food manufacturing, air transportation, real estate, property development, and retail.

“The merger will also expand BPI’s access to the network of the Gokongwei Group, especially to the Filipino-Chinese market segment, which has been the significant advantage of our closest competitors,” Limcaoco said in January 2023.

BPI also stated that with the merger, Robinsons Bank and BPI clients will “enjoy a wider suite of financial products and services, plus broader branch and ATM networks once the integration is completed.”

The merger could also allow BPI to dabble in digital banking through Robinsons Bank’s 20% ownership stake in GoTyme, one of the country’s select digital banks. BPI itself does not have a digital bank license. (READ: ​​As digital banks gain popularity, will the big banks follow too?)

Meanwhile, BSP Governor Eli Remolona Jr. said the central bank is “looking at more consolidation” across the banking industry as it tends to strengthen banks.

“Robinsons, I think, is small relative to BPI, but I think it will make the scale effects bigger for Robinsons’ part than for BPI. But it’s a merger that makes sense in terms of their complementarities,” Remolona said in a press chat on December 20.

“If both are healthy, then we give the benefit of the doubt to the merger. We’re not so positive if it’s a merger that will somehow weaken the bigger bank,” he added.

Even after BPI assumes the deposits of Robinsons Bank post-merger, the Ayala-led bank will merely retain its current rank as the third largest bank in the country in terms of total assets and deposits. 

The Gokongwei Group will receive an additional 6% ownership stake in BPI following the merger. – Rappler.com

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Lance Spencer Yu

Lance Spencer Yu is a multimedia reporter who covers the transportation, tourism, infrastructure, finance, agriculture, and corporate sectors, as well as macroeconomic issues.