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MANILA, Philippines - The Rizal Commercial and Banking Co. (RCBC) has introduced an SME business loan program which gives women the opportunity to increase their financial capacity and meet the growing demands of their business.

RCBC's Women's Enterprise Loan is the first business loan program in the country developed specifically to address the needs of Filipina entrepreneurs. It is also the bank's way of responding to the government's call to help empower local entrepreneurs through improved access to credit.

RCBC executive vice president Uy Chun Bing said that the bank recognizes through this new offering the crucial role that women play in the country's economy.

"It also seems worthwhile for the bank to support this sector because of the opportunity it gives us to offer various financial products and services," Uy stated.

The universal bank of the Yuchengco Group said that it was able to tap into the women entrepreneur market through its eWoman program, which it introduced in 2007. And customer analytics showed that no less than 25 percent of its women customers were engaged in their own business.

"This program will provide the impetus for them to bring their businesses to a higher level," he added.

RCBC Women's Enterprise Loan offers a wide array of banking products needed by the business, its shareholders, officers and staff.

This program will integrate the combined resources of RCBC and RCBC Savings Bank, Bankard, and Malayan Insurance to provide working capital and other solutions for the business, auto, housing, and other consumer loans for officers and staff, corporate credit cards for key personnel, and special group insurance packages.

Women entrepreneurs will also enjoy special privileges from RCBC Bankard Diamond Credit Card, express lane and automatic pre-qualification for auto and housing loan programs, and premium insurance packages from Malayan Insurance.

RCBC first senior vice president Michael O. de Jesus stated meanwhile that identifying high-potential niche markets and helping them achieve their full potential, is part of the bank's long term growth plan.

"Women entrepreneurs can do so much more. They account for a significant share of local businesses but many still feel that their financial needs are not properly addresses, so it is about time that we start focusing and meeting their business needs," De Jesus said.

For its women lending program, RCBC entered into a partnership with the International Finance Corp., the investment arm of the World Bank Group, to work together in developing products and services that would be beneficial to its women clients.

RCBC is aggressively pursuing the SME market. It recently launched its Phone-A-Loan (877-RCBC) service, which allows an entrepreneur find out if he or his business is qualified for a business loan with a commercial bank.

Since being re-launched four years ago, RCBC's SME Banking expanded its portfolio by over three times to its present level of about P15 billion. It is planning to expand total credits to this market to P20 billion in the next 12 months.