MANILA, OCTOBER 18, 2003  (STAR) Equitable PCI Bankís Express Padala posted a 23-percent growth in remittance volume in the seven months to July, nearly four times the industry rate, as its efforts to reach more Filipinos abroad and provide them easier and faster means to send money home continued to bear fruit.

The pioneering remittance network posted the healthy increase from year-ago levels to outpace the industry, which saw total inflows rise a more modest six percent to $4.2 billion in the period. Doing so, it bucked worries that inflows would slacken because of the dampening effects of SARS and the Iraq war on OFW deployment.

Amid such concerns Express Padala persisted with aggressive efforts to extend its reach in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and North America where OFWs are concentrated. It opened more offices, acquired more shipping companies and signed up more tie-ups, agents, and correspondent banks.

"Notwithstanding temporary market disruptions, Filipinos continue to maintain deployment overseas in large numbers and the market for remittance services remains robust," said Richard So, Equitable PCI Bank first vice president and head of Express Padala. "And, it is a market that lends itself to product innovation such as we like to do."

The groupís biggest expansion is in North America, where the largest numbers of overseas Filipinos are concentrated. Last year, Express Padala gained entry to the Canada market and signed up 18 new remittance agents in five more states in the US.

In Asia, it introduced service to Japan and Korea via tie-ups with Banco do Brasil S/A Tokyo and Kookmin Bank. In Hong Kong, it signed up two tie-up partners to add to its four offices there. Service to Taiwan was introduced by tying up with International Bank of Taipei.

In the Middle East, Express Padala firmed tie-ups with four more establishments, the latest one in Dubai, trade and transport hub of the Persian Gulf. In Europe, it introduced service in Austria through a tie-up with a Filipino-owned company.

One of the widest remittance networks serving overseas-based Filipinos, Express Padala is available through 27 remittance subsidiaries, 86 tie-ups, 154 agents and 300 correspondent banks worldwide.

Now celebrating its 53rd Anniversary, Equitable PCI Bank is presently the countryís third largest bank, enjoying leadership in corporate and commercial banking, credit and payment cards, trust, leasing, and investment banking. It has over 400 branches and more than 400 FASTeller ATMs nationwide, with access to 4,000 BancNet, MegaLink, and ExpressNet ATMs.

With its continued growth and strong Bank franchise, Equitable PCI Bank is moving forward and fully committed to be the "Bank of Choice".

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved