Security Bank Corp. is expecting better profitability this year amid a double-digit growth in its lending business, the bank's investments in technology as well as its plans to put up more branches.

In a roundtable discussion with reporters Friday, Eduardo Olbes, executive vice president and chief financial officer at Security Bank, said the lender may likely outperform this year compared to 2023.

'The journey of improving profitability is a multi-year one, but our aspiration obviously is to show significantly improved profitability this year versus last year,' he said.

Security Bank's net income went down by 13.7 percent last year to P9.1 billion from P10.6 billion in 2022.

According to Olbes, credit costs slightly picked up in 2023 mainly due to the provisions that the bank set aside to cover bad debts. This, as retail clients and businesses still carry significant amounts of debt, which is hard to maintain given the high interest rate environment.

Last year, the bank set aside P4.8 billion as provisions for credit and impairment losses, 69 percent higher from a year ago. Security Bank's non-performing loan (NPL) ratio also rose to 1.37 percent in 2023, up from 1.05 percent in 2022.

However, Security Bank sees credit costs to normalize within the first quarter this year. It also expects a likely 14 to 15 percent growth in bank lending, mainly driven by rising home and auto loans.

'The bank will continue to make its investments in terms of technology and branch expansion, and that will continue to remain. When you make these investments, it obviously impacts your costs,' Olbes said.

'But what you should expect in parallel with that is a significant growth or acceleration in the bank's revenues as we grow our business with our target market,' he added.

Security Bank president and CEO Sanjiv Vohra said the bank is aiming to be the most customer-centric lender in the Philippines and to grow its market share. One of the ways to do this is by launching four different mobile applications this year.

He said the bank would first launch its retail app in the second half this year, followed by a wholesale app and MSME app which will be launched in the third quarter. Security Bank is also targeting to launch an app dedicated to the bank's wealth management business in the fourth quarter.

'We have other initiatives to try to drive growth this year. But you should expect (growth) to manifest with us growing faster than the competition in 2025. And where you would see that is how is our deposit growth versus the industry, or how is our customer growth relative to the industry,' Vohra said.

He also said that the bank is aiming to give consumers an omni-channel approach where customer and user experiences across all the channels will be the same.

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