Philippine National Bank (PNB) is consolidating various departments as part of its efforts to strengthen its lending business.

The bank's board of directors approved the creation of a consumer finance sector.

The new sector, PNB said, consolidates the functions of the bank's cards and payments solutions group, retail lending group and select retail lending operations department.

PNB first senior vice president Celeste Marie Lim was designated as head of the newly created sector.

Earlier, majority owner Lucio Tan, 89, and his wife Carmen, 82, have stepped down as directors of the bank as part of succession planning.

The taipan, who was elected to the board in 1999, was appointed as chairman emeritus of the bank, while his wife, who has been a director of PNB since 2016, was named board advisor.

PNB director Lucio 'Han' Tan III earlier told The STAR that the listed bank is looking to strengthen its retail lending business as part of efforts to optimize operations.

'In PNB, we have a large concentration on corporate loans and I feel that if we want to expand further, we can definitely go further into retail,' Tan III said.

He said expanding into retail would require a scalable infrastructure including a credit verification procedure 'because you have to be a lot more meticulous.'

However, he noted the opportunity for PNB is endless and strengthening the bank's presence into that segment would definitely enhance its value.

PNB's earnings slipped by 12 percent to P9.74 billion in the first half of the year due to the sharp rise in provision for potential loan losses as well as lower gains from the sale of assets.

Despite the decline, PNB president Florido Casuela said the bank 'is able to sustain its profitability on the back of sound execution of business strategies that are expected to ensure long-term growth as set forth in our vision, mission, and strategy for the next five years.'

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