SM goes ever outward

SM Investment president and CEO Frederic DyBuncio. | Photograph courtesy of SM

Recognizing the potential for growth outside the NCR, the SM Group aims to stimulate local economies and contribute to the development of many underserved regions in the country.

“There is a lot of potential especially in Luzon outside of the NCR as well as in Visayas and Mindanao where there is still a need to access modern trade. And it’s not just for our core businesses of retail, banking and property but also for our portfolio companies,” SM Investments president and CEO Frederic C. DyBuncio said.

Among its portfolio companies, SM is beefing up investments in logistics through 2GO Group and Airspeed to help spur more economic activity in the provinces.

“Logistics plays a crucial role in the delivery of goods and services to the people especially with increased economic action,” DyBuncio said.

2GO Travel serves Visayas and Mindanao with routes in key cities in the region. Interports are available from Cebu to Cagayan de Oro, Butuan, or Ozamis. 2GO’s strategic logistical hubs efficiently handle cold chain requirements for food shipments from VisMin to Manila and the rest of Luzon.

2GO has extended its Less than Container Load shipside services from Manila and Cebu to Iloilo, Zamboanga, Cagayan de Oro and Puerto Princesa, providing MSMEs with opportunities to scale by transporting time- and temperature-sensitive goods nationwide.

Moreover, 2GO’s comprehensive end-to-end solutions encompass transportation through a fleet of 3,000 couriers servicing inter-VisMin transfers.

Airspeed, for its part, is taking strategic steps to position its Cebu warehouse as a central point for its future growth. The company has planned to establish new hubs in key VisMin cities, along with opening more kiosks and collaborations with service providers. These developments aim to provide better customer options and ensure quicker delivery times, ultimately allowing Airspeed to deliver improved service and competitive prices.

Bakeshop chain Goldilocks, part of SM’s portfolio investments, expanded further into the provinces with 40 percent of its new stores located in Visayas and Mindanao.

SM continues to expand extensively in the regions as key cities are demonstrating double digit economic growth.

In retail, SM Investments reported that out of the total 419 new retail stores opened in 2023, about 89 percent are located in provincial areas.

Expansion is also geared toward growing with local communities to benefit their economy and ever-changing lifestyles.

Its property arm SM Prime Holdings Inc. opened three new malls in 2023 — SM City Bataan, SM Center San Pedro in Laguna and SM City Sto. Tomas in Batangas.

SM Development Corp. is building more residential communities with 20 projects in the provinces (or outside Metro Manila) as of December 2023 namely in Pampanga, Bulacan, Rizal, Cavite, Laguna, Cagayan de Oro, Davao, Iloilo and Bacolod.

In banking, BDO Unibank‘s presence in the regions is extensive with 1,101 branches in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao out of the total 1,720 branches as of end-2023. BDO’s community bank, BDO Network Bank also continues to reach remote communities through branch expansion in the provinces.

China Banking Corp., likewise, has a wide footprint in the provinces. Out of its 648 branches, 300 are outside Metro Manila.

In addition to the regular branches, its thrift bank subsidiary China Bank Savings has a provincial network of 94 branch lites and lending centers to date and continues to expand its brick-and-mortar presence in Visayas and Mindanao with the aim of delivering both traditional and digital banking services to customers.

“We view the regions as a bright spot for growth with the diverse products and services that we offer to consumers. We believe that there’s so much more opportunities for us to be able to provide better services to the Filipino people in the regions,” DyBuncio said.