Are our deposits safe?
This is the question that popped into my mind as I read the reports on how Metrobank – the country’s second largest bank – allegedly lost anywhere from Php 900 million to a staggering Php 2.5 billion to thieves who operated from deep inside the bank itself.
Coming so soon after that monstrous “glitch” at the Bank of the Philippine Islands, this seems like the stuff of nightmares for ordinary depositors like me.
While the owners of Metrobank, the Banker’s Association of the Philippines, and the officials of the Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas have been stumbling over themselves in reassuring the public that everything is a-ok, all their words ring hollow when compared to the scale of the theft. And how it went unnoticed for, what some analysts say, possibly years and years.
When people – ordinary people – put their money in banks, the least they expect is that those they entrust with their savings will not be the same ones who would steal it. This is the sacred trust between the banks and their depositors that has allowed the industry to grow.
But if what my banker friends tell me is true – that 90% of whatever losses a bank suffers is paid for by depositors’ money – then there is something very wrong with what happened with Metrobank. Something that cannot be resolved by self-serving press releases and promises to do better.
Metrobank – like all banks – must be made accountable for what happened. Just as RCBC was penalized for the lapses in its system, the same standards must be applied to assure depositors that the Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas will not take this sitting down.
Which may be a bit of a challenge since the BSP has set a precedent that may be hard to live up to. After the 1 billion peso penalty levied on RCBC, how much will they fine Metrobank now? Two billion? Three? Five?
And what about the three members of the Monetary Board who have connections with Metrobank, will they have to step down just to ensure we will have a fair decision? That’s half the Board right there.
The truth is, these issues are much more complicated than the news stories make it out to be. Certainly they are beyond what ordinary citizens like me can understand. Which is why people want answers – not empty platitudes. And the sooner they have it – both from Metrobank and the Banko Sentral – the sooner we will all be able to sleep soundly.