In safe hands

Recently, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas reported that the personal remittances from Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) grew from 6.4 percent to $13.9 billion for the first half of 2013, compared to the same period a year ago. The sustained growth was still largely driven by the land-based OFWs whose remittances comprised of about threefourths (75.2 percent) of the total.

With such money coming in, are there options available for our “modern day heroes” and their families here in our country to further grow their funds? For instance, having too much money can prove fatal especially if these are placed in the “wrong hands” or even placed in an investment asset where some might lack substantial knowledge on the risks associated to it. Thus, choosing the right investment destination for the remittance money is as equally important as keeping the overseas job itself.

Aside from the usual investments in real estate and in various business opportunities, the rural banking industry represents a safe and viable destination for the hard-earned money of OFWs.

Rural banks are in the best position to serve the financial needs of OFWs and their families as most of them reside in rural communities where rural banks operate. It is not uncommon for rural bank owners and staff to personally know these people: they typically come from same villages or barangays, and they almost shared their childhood together. No other financial institution can better provide a more personable service than grassroots companies like rural banks.

Rural banks likewise offer different financial and non-financial products and services to OFWs and their families. These include high-yield medium/long-term time deposit, children’s savings accounts, education and housing loans, bills payment and collection services for pension funds and government healthcare services, as well as advisories on how to start business ventures and undergo skills training in partnership with different government agencies. Most rural banks also provide counseling services to OFW spouses on how to best take care of their money. They become like a “financial coach” to families, providing helpful tips on how to become entrepreneurs and how to keep their businesses profitable.

Remittances saved likewise help provide employment opportunities since the law provides that rural banks should invest their earnings back to the rural communities where they operate. All these opportunities help improve the utilization and conversion of remittances into productive investments and ventures in the countryside, thus expanding the benefits derived from foreign remittances.

In 2012, OFWs remitted more than $21 billion, equivalent to 8.5 percent of the country’s gross domestic product last year. Such a powerful contributor to the economy deserves nothing less than the utmost care and the best treatment only rural banks can truly offer.