Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Best Bank in the Philippines

Disclaimer: This is my own opinion. The Bank of the Philippine Islands did not pay me to write this. Moreover, all of my posts in this blog are of my own opinion and are not influenced by PR drives of the companies I write about.

The Bank of the Philippine Islands for me is the best bank in the country. I maintain a savings and checking account with them. My employer likewise pays me out through the same bank. For several reasons, I like BPI for the convenience of consumer banking.

They are the bank which allows seamless transactions nationwide and has wide network through out the country. By seamless, I mean you can deposit, withdraw and transact in any BPI Branch where it is convenient for you. For example, if your branch is in Makati City and you are in Taguig, you can deposit in a Taguig branch with no extra charge. You can likewise withdraw cash in any branch. I believe some big banks like Metrobank and BDO charge a nominal fee for deposits and cannot withdraw except for your home branch.

They have a user friendly website interface. I pay all my utility bills on line. This gives me the convenience of paying with a few clicks away. They cater to almost all utility merchants such as Globe,  Meralco, Skycable and a few Schools as well.

They have the best call center customer service. Unlike other banks like HSBC or BDO, they have the most knowledgeable agents. Their customer service are the most professional I talk to whenever I call their hotline.

They have a high-tech queue system in most of their branches.

These are just a few things I like about them. There are more and I'll let you discover that. Truly, they live up to their mantra "Let's make things easy."


Friday, June 15, 2012

The Philippines and its Economy (Part 1)


The Philippines is a lagging country in the South East Asian region. For one, many would think that the nearest country within the level of the Philippines is Thailand, but figures have shown that it would take 20 years for the Philippines to match Thailand’s infrastructure. That is a clear picture where the country is. We have gone many administrations, which boasted different agenda, we had Philippines 2000, we had 20-point agenda programs and of course, currently the President has vowed to wipe out corruption since he tells us that if there’s no corruption, there’s no poverty. We have also proven that, it really takes a lot to make the Philippines more competitive.


Economists say that the main problem is infrastructure. Over the past decade, the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) has addressed this immensely. A number of her speeches back then would always mention improvement of infrastructure through construction, irrigation and the development of nautical highways. But we saw a government marred with unprecedented allegations of corruption, which of course turned investor confidence to its lowest and triggered credit rating agencies such as S&P, Moody’s and Fitch to make downgrades over the years. Indeed, GMA’s genius worked a little to improve the country. Not to mention the institutions which have been raped of their decency and competency when she appointed incompetent cabinet secretaries to key posts in the government in exchange of political favors.

Truly, her administration could have been a highlight of reforms in the government. After all, she was installed to power by people power, which has been highly regarded by the international community to be a prime tool of democracy. We can say enumerate many “could have beens” but reality tells us that past is past and there is no way we can go back there to fix the problems our country has. What we have right now is the present and a promising administration that vows to clean the Republic.


I recently read an article about tourism and why Boracay, the country’s best beach destination cannot match that of Indonesia’s Bali. We know that tourism is a prime mover of an economy. The President himself said that for every one tourist, one job is created. Perhaps one reason why we don’t have many tourists is that we lack good airports. When I say good airports, these are the ones that can accommodate millions of tourists per year. In Manila, we have four operating disconnected terminals, meaning they are not accessible to one another. If you visit France’s Charles de Gaulle or Singapore’s Changi airports, their terminals are all connected either via monorails or walkalators. The government needs to pump up infrastructure most especially in tourism driven locations such as Boracay. If the government is serious about tourism, it should allocate funds primarily to improving the airports in the said pristine island such as extending the runway of Caticlan Airport to accommodate larger planes or improving the terminal at the Kalibo airport. 

How Do You REALLY Get Cheap Airfares?


Traveling has been very different now. With the emergence of budget carriers such as Airphil Express, Sea Air and Air Asia, which offer less expensive airfares, travelling for the ordinary person has been more or less affordable. Gone are the days that a round trip flight from Manila to Singapore would cost you 20,000PhP at the minimum. Gone are the days where you have to go to your travel agent to book a ticket. It’s different now. It is faster, more convenient and definitely less expensive.

***image from the web***

But how does one find the best fares available?

Just recently, I was browsing the Internet looking for a fare to Singapore. The initial thing I did was to look for fares via Cebu Pacific, since they are number one in the Philippines. But I realized I did not want to use the Budget Terminal in Changi Airport. So I looked at Jetstar. The fare at Jetstar would cost me 8,700 net, meaning that’s an all-in fare with all the travel taxes imposed to travellers - take note however that NAIA charges terminal fee which is payable at the airport. Cut the story short, I ended up booking a Singapore Airlines ticket that costs, 8, 500PhP net, all-in.

***image from the web***

I want to give you the thought that the best airfares you can find would not always come from budget carriers. Although there is a stark difference between legacy carriers and budget airlines, the air travel industry is still one big competition to business players and airlines, no matter which classification, would always try to offer the best fares for travellers. After all everything- at the end of the day will be about profitability.


My advice for you is to search all possible airlines at a given time. You have to do your research if you are not brand sensitive. If you do not really care about the service, the comfort and the convenience, budget carriers are generally cheaper. But as I’ve stated, that is not always the case.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Leaving

Leaving a workplace can be one of the greatest decisions you have to encounter at one point of your life. The thought in itself is very much taxing most especially if you have forged relationships within the organization you work for either personally or professionally. It is likewise confusing weighing all the pros and cons, the tradeoffs and your future plans. In short, it might just be the most difficult decision you have to make for the short term.

Leaving is inevitable. Change is, as we all know, constant; resigning is a part of it. As old proverbs would tell you, once you get hold of something, you must learn along the way that in future time you would have to let go. But we are all afraid of uncertainty, we get flooded with "what ifs", we are all afraid of the risks, we get weak in the decision making process. But more than a professional initiative, resigning from your job is a personal choice. At the end of the day,  you alone are going to make that decision.

Leaving entails a lot of thinking. You have to back-up your decision with sound and logical reasons otherwise you might regret the decision you've made. It requires pondering, reflecting and to a certain extent, perhaps, internalizing. It may be too dramatic, but this decision is not just like buying clothes or a phone, it will affect the next three months of your life most especially in this country where job security is very difficult to achieve.

When an employee leaves an organization, the main question outsiders ask is "why?" More often than not, every resignation of an employee is a failure of a company. Meaning, the employee has a potential offer of whatever sort that the company cannot provide. Leaving is a battle of tradeoffs and opportunity costs on both sides. If you are valuable enough and the company's resources can sustain your demands, it might offer you something better others offer you. If not, you are sure to get the better offer. That's how it works.

At the end of the day, the company and the employee resigning should have open communications. They should both think of the odds. They should think for the better.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Noynoying and PNoying

Noynoying has made it to the Wall Street Journal. Whoever paid for it to be published there must be of course be one of Noynoy's critics. To put it simply, Noynoying means doing nothing despite a number of things a president should be doing, it may mean lying around and just sitting in one corner without the effort to actually do your job.

Noynoying was coined amidst opposition and observation allegedly by activists that President Noynoy Aquino only focuses on one thing which is corruption and not attending to the more important aspects of running the country such as the economy alongside rising prices of oil. It is as if it's easy being President, it is as if all he does is party and date Grace Lee. It is distasteful that at this point where the popularity of the President is undisputed currently at 70%, a select number of Filipinos still choose to make negative noise and become part of a dysfunctional democracy where the elite and the powerful are the ones controlling an opportunistic opposition. Of course not all in the opposition are being controlled, some are genuine and want real change. Some even suggest reforms to make the country better.

Basing on economic indicators, the Philippines has improved a lot since 2010. With all the upgrades Moody's, Fitch and S&P have released, the country is on the right track. With the surging of the Philippine Stock Market (PSE) reaching all time highs of 5, 100 - 5, 500, investor confidence is renewed at the highest levels when analysts only predicted the bourse to reach 5, 000 by the end of the year, the first quarter has not finished yet, we are above that level. The peso is trading steadily with the superb monetary policy of the Bangko Central ng Pilipinas. Inflation figures are low. Prospects for jobs are rosy with local businessmen and the business process outsourcing industry optimistic in the short and long term. And a lot more. Of course, poverty is still a major problem, but I am confident with the administration that it is doing its job to address everything, one step at a time, building a strong economic foundation that can translate to long term inclusive growth. The mandate is there, we just have to cooperate with the reforms the Aquino administration is taking.

Sure the President has his own shortcomings and with all these positive news and progress, some of us still think, he never contributed to positive change. Noynoying is for the negative, let's give PNoying a shot for the good news.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Cebu Pacific Needs to Review Service Blue Print

Cheap is one thing. Convenience is another. The latter is more important although in the case of budget carriers, both should go together.

I was trying to book a flight via Cebu Pacific Air (Airline Code: 5J) and found their on-line booking platform very very inconvenient. It was way better last year.

The main change 5J made is to separate the base fare to the baggage fee. Meaning, you get a default price for the fare only, less the baggage fee. Prior to this they included the baggage fee in the base fare. I am confident that the better way to do is to include the baggage fee in the base fare, and let the customer choose should he decide to pay for more baggage.

Second, their website defaults your booking to have reserved seats. Prior to this the default was "no seat selected", but now their system reserves seats automatically for you which adds up 100PhP/ way, 200PhP-roundtrip to your base fare. The more irritating part of their platform is that it is very difficult to find how to remove the reserved seat. I am inclined to think that Cebu Pacific purposely did this so customers especially the first timers or the less frequent traveler can just go with it and pay for the reserved seat they never wanted to have. Furthermore, I am sure majority of the budget customers would not want to add up to the price of their fare and reserve a seat in an Airbus A320 which is a relatively small plane. Cebu Pacific needs to drop this and go back to the original default without reserved seats.

Everybody knows that Zero-fare, or PISO Fares are not really Piso or Free. They need to stop fooling customers in this marketing strategy, if they really care for them. Perhaps in a more technical sense, they may be right. But 5J's customers are not technical at all. They need and want the real price of the fare. They might as well say that Manila-Hongkong-Manila flights are usually 3, 000PhP to 4, 500PhP instead of Zero or Piso deceiving tactics.

In my opinion, what they did was not effective in terms of customer satisfaction and although they claim that they were more profitable in these scheme, I am boldly predicting that once the frequency of flights from their competitors like Air Philippines and Air Asia or Seair level theirs, they will lose. They  need to do more research and listen well to the people who made them number 1. Don't just thank them. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Where You Really Should Put Your Salary

For the majority of the young Philippine workforce, you have to face it. You are on your twenties, and you have a depleted bank account which is only funded by your employer every pay day. When you have your money, you shop and spend until it's gone again. Once it's gone, you complain you do not have money left and you painfully wait for the next pay day. Then it's funded again, and you buy gadgets which in reality you can't really afford like iPhones, iPads, smartphones and more. After that, you end up having no money left. 


Good thing you are young and statistically the propensity of you getting sick is slim compared to people in their 40s or 50s. But really, do you really need to live that way? Once money is there, you exploit it. On a Marxist paradigm however, that may be valid, but the more logical way is to really save up for contingencies of life, for the future and for long term growth.


Again, as I've been advocating to everyone, there are plenty of financial instruments available today where you can put part of your salary into. There has been no time in history that investment vehicles have been very accessible than today, so really, you do not have an excuse to excuse yourself from not investing. 


Experts say that you need to invest 20-50% of your salary. This may vary depending on your needs. Bottom line is that you really have to cut on expenses which you do not really need. To give you a picture, I personally know someone who's been working for two years, earns 300, 000 pesos annually, invests in the stock market and mutual funds, and has a bank balance of 150, 000 pesos in cash. Count more the value of his investments in the financial market. He's just 22 by the way. 


On the contrary, I also know someone who earns 250, 000 annually works for 3 years already, who does not have 10, 000 in his bank account. Now you ask why the hell that happened. 


To get you started, this is probably the best option you have. For now.


mutual fund is a professionally managed type of collective investment scheme that pools money from many investors to buy stocks,bonds, short-term money market instruments, and/or other securities. from Wikipedia.


In the Philippines, the best mutual fund is managed by First Metro Asset Management , Inc. I won't really get into details but they are historically the best giving high returns to investments. To give you a picture. Say you invested 100, 000 pesos in their EQUITY fund last January 2. The value of your investment today would be around 104, 000. So that's a 4% gain! 


This type of investment is best when you have limited knowledge on the stock market, you just fund your account and a dedicated manager would make it grow for you. The fund manager's salary is usually dependent on the performance of the fund. So the higher your money grows the larger his salary becomes meaning if the fund does not perform well, he gets little too. 


So start your investment and have a brighter future! Goodluck!