Mindanao-based rural bank steps up expansion

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1st Valley Bank Inc., a rural bank operating in the Visayas and Mindanao, aims to acquire smaller industry players and establish branches in supposedly restricted areas in Metro Manila.

Also, the bank, which is eager to compete in urban areas and tap under-served markets in the provinces, expects to get into thrift banking this year.

According to its officials, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has already approved the conversion of 1st Valley into a thrift bank and that the bank is just awaiting the approval of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

“1st Valley is converting into a thrift bank. Once we become one, we expect to get into a bigger playing field and enjoy more privileges,” Nicolas Lim, president and chief executive officer of 1st Valley, said in an interview Tuesday.

Unlike rural banks, thrift banks are allowed to engage in other businesses, such as trust operations.

1st Valley, which has been operating for 56 years, has 26 branches and nine extension offices in Central Visayas, Western Mindanao and Northern Mindanao.

Lim said the bank aimed to put up 10 more branches in the provinces of Cebu, Agusan and Davao, immediately after getting the approval of the SEC.

“We hope to get it in a month or two,” Lim said.

Nicolette Gica, the bank’s head for operations, said 1st Valley was keen on acquiring weak rural banks, especially with the incentives being extended by regulators to “white knights.” Lim said being able to branch out in supposedly restricted areas in Metro Manila was one of the most attractive incentives for stronger banks to acquire smaller and weaker banks.

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