posted 27-Jan-2019  ·  
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Where do we go from here?

     This question is most often asked by owners of small companies as well as investors and top management of big corporations after a particularly challenging year.

     The answer frequently determines how much success the business or venture achieves in the next 12 months, proof of the careful planning and resource marshalling that its leaders and managers does to make sure they achieve their targets.

     Twenty years after a group of farmers, fishermen and micro-entrepreneurs created the Agricultural and Rural Development for Catanduanes, Inc. (ARDCI), the island’s foremost contribution to the country in the field of microfinance has not faltered in its aim to be bigger, higher and stronger.

     Its reach continues to expand across the Philippine archipelago, establishing thriving communities of microfinance members in Albay, Sorsogon, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Quezon, Laguna, Batangas, Oriental Mindoro, Occidental Mindoro, Marinduque, Bulacan, Pampanga, Zambales, Tarlac, Pangasinan, Samar, Leyte, and Negros Occidental.

     From 68 branches at the end of 2017, it now has 76 branches, with the last nine set up in Catarman and Borongan in Samar island, Bulan in Sorsogon, Ormoc, Baybay, Carigara and Tacloban in Leyte, and Silay in Negros Occidental at the heart of the Visayas.

     This has brought its membership to a total of 150,973 at the end of 2018, quite an accomplishment for a humble people’s organization that was initially assisted by the national government and the European Union.

     It now has total assets of P2.226 billion as of Dec. 31, 2018, and a loan portfolio of P1.3 billion for 113,979 borrowing members. This means that fully 75 percent of its members have active, outstanding microfinance loans, providing them with access to C opportunities that had proven elusive for most of them.

     Despite its size and reach, ARDCI MFI continued to find success in maintaining a Portfolio At Risk (PAR) ratio below 2%, proof that its stringent loan processing and affordable microfinance products and services is the best there is in the archipelago. For 2018, it achieved a PAR Rate of 0.65 percent, which should ensure its continued delivery of services to its members and sustainable microfinance operations.

     Furthering its cause, it has made considerable investments in its three subsidiaries: ARDCI Bank, Inc. – A Rural Bank, one of the island’s top rural banks; the ARDCI Corporate Inn, Inc., the number one choice of travelers for their affordable, quality accommodations as well as a primary venue for events in the locality; and, the ARDCI Prime Security Services, Inc., that not only offers security services but provides employment opportunities to guards who are often immediate relatives of members.

     More importantly, a new subsidiary - ARDCI Financing Corporation – would help borrowers increase their loanable amount beyond the P300,000 limit for microfinance. This is good news for successful micro-entrepreneurs who dream of expanding their ventures into multi-million business concerns.

     For the New Year, ARDCI Microfinance, Inc. is confident of completing the construction of the 10-storey ARDCI Corporate Building II. It also desires to establish the ARDCI Grocery, mainly to address the needs of its members for affordable basic necessities.

     Taking advantage of the fact that Catanduanes is the number one producer of abaca fiber in the country and in the world, a working plan to venture into abaca trading will be realized in 2019, thereby benefiting many members who are abaca farmers themselves. This would include training in product development that would target not only local consumers but also foreign markets.

     Targeting a 20% growth rate in 2019, along with at least 12 to 13% growth in portfolio and 15% in Outreach programs, ARDCI MFI sees continued expansion in the next 11 months with 13 new branches in various locations.

     What distinguishes this latest foray, however, is that for the first time the microfinance institution could be setting up a branch abroad, depending on the results of an on-going market research in Hong Kong for what could be its 14th branch in 2019.  If realized, the new branch would serve overseas Filipino workers by giving them access to easy credit especially when they need to send money to their loved ones in the Philippines well ahead of their scheduled payday.

     With the typical fortitude that Catandunganons have always shown through decades of surviving from and rising above calamities as well as the indomitable spirit of the Bicolano oragon, ARDCI Microfinance, Inc. enters its 21st year of existence not only with a sense of maturity and purpose but also a proven provider of sustainable development to its clientele: the enterprising poor.

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