MANILA, Philippines — The banking arm of Cebuana Lhuillier expects a 60 percent jump in accounts by the end of next year as it boosts financial inclusion efforts amid the pandemic.

Jean Henri Lhuillier, president and chief executive officer of Cebuana Lhuillier, told The STAR Cebuana Lhuillier Rural Bank (CLRB) sees its account base hitting eight million by the end of next year.

“We will continue our extensive Iponaryo campaigns using all available channels, including 2,500 Cebuana Lhuillier branches nationwide,” Lhuillier said.

CLRB president Dennis Valdes said account holders or “Iponaryos” continued to have full access to their hard-earned money at their convenience amid the quarantine measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

“The many challenges and limitations in access presented by the pandemic to our clients and countless Filipinos, made us look even harder for more opportunities in bringing Cebuana Lhuillier Micro Savings to the next level; pushing our myriad of services farther ahead to immediately answer the needs of our clients,” Valdes said.

The savings product was introduced in 2019 to provide unbanked and underbanked Filipinos with easy access to basic savings, regardless of who and where they are.

Valdes said there are now over one million micro savings accounts and the number is expected to hit five million by the end of 2020.

“We have already reached one million micro savings account holders and by the end of this year we are already looking at more than five million account holders nationwide,” Valdes added.

CLRB launched additional features to the micro savings account to help more Filipinos become financially mobile, especially during the onset of the ‘’new normal’’.

These include partnerships with BancNet and UnionPay, a link to the eCebuana app, and the addition of QR (quick response) technology for added security.

By partnering with BancNet, clients now have unrivalled easy access to their finances beyond CLRB’s cash agent, Cebuana Lhuillier’s more than 2,500 branches nationwide, using BancNet’s roster of 21,000 ATMs and 114 member banks.

A tie-up with UnionPay further allows account holders to make debit payments through over 350,000 point-of-sales (POS) terminals, as well as partner merchants nationwide. ‘Iponaryos’ can now get the benefit of an enhanced payment security with UnionPay chip cards’ quick payment process with just a tap, using UnionPay Contactless technology, plus the convenience of not having to carry cash and coins.

“Our dream is to digitally and financially include Filipinos by implementing world-class and innovative digital financial solutions for them. This, we believe, is what the future of financial inclusion should be – a future where there is financial mobility for every Filipino, a future where we provide them the capability to manage their finances whenever and wherever they may be at any time,” Lhuillier said.