Manila Bulletin Business Agenda section page C-4 | December 13, 2010

It's an industry that refuses to sleep, in its figurative and true form. Early this month, IBM's Global Locations Trend reported that the Philippines is now the new leader in the business support functions where the BPO (business process outsourcing) belongs, taking the position from India.

Indeed, the BPO industry has become an important aspect of the country's economic growth, accounting for 3.2 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). According to the Business Processing Association of the Philippines (BPAP), there are 600,000 Filipinos working in the BPO industry. The call center industry alone, which takes up 70 percent of the BPO trade, is expected to reach $5.7 billion worth of revenues by the end of the year.

Another evidence of the booming industry is the growing number of service centers being set up here in the country. Just recently, Global Payments Inc. (GPI) launched its first Global Service Center (GSC) at the Robinsons Cybergate Plaza in Mandaluyong City. Formerly under the National Data Corporation, a pioneer in the credit card authorization and electronic processing industry since 1967, Global Payments started trading on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in 2001 as a separate company. Combining more than four decades of expertise from its former parent company and an experienced management team, Global Payments became part of Fortune magazine's top 1,000 largest American corporations this year.

The center is a state-of-the-art, 73,000-square foot facility, which will provide 24/7 service for Global Payments' worldwide customer base.As one of the largest payment processing companies in the world today, Global Payments processes billions of transactions through its electronic information network. It is one of the leading providers of electronic transaction processing services for merchants, Independent Sales Organizations (ISOs), financial institutions, government agencies and multi-national companies across the globe. It offers, among others, a comprehensive line of processing solutions for credit and debit cards, business-to-business purchasing cards, gift cards, electronic check conversion and check guarantee, verification and recovery (including electronic check services) and terminal management.
The GSC will support other regions where Global Payments has accounts such as the United Kingdom, North America, Central and Eastern Europe and Asia Pacific. The center, which has been operating since September, has started hiring close to 350 employees and is aiming to fill the 550 vacancies by the end of the year. At present, 50 percent of the staff handles the UK account, but they also handle accounts from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.

BPO -friendly
Global Payments Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer Morgan “Mac” Schuessler sees a positive outlook in doing business here. According to him, the Philippines is strategically located in the fastest-growing region (Asia) in the world. “We believe that industries like us are welcome under P-Noy's administration.”
In his speech during the center's inauguration, President Benigno S. Aquino III bared how the international community has been receiving positive comments about the country's consistency in being a reliable place for business. According to P-Noy, businessmen “perceive the Philippines as a place conducive to investing and expanding their business.”
Political instability no longer poses a great threat to potential investors as there is a renewed trust in the new administration. More than that, Schuessler said that they chose the Philippines because of the people—“not only do Filipinos have strong educational background, they have exceptional work ethics.”
It's also a classic give and take relationship. The BPO companies here in the country are provided with income tax holidays from four to eight years and after which a five percent tax rate on gross income. Companies whose offices are within IT Parks and eco zones enjoy tax and duty exemption on imported capital equipment.
At the same time, aside from boosting the country's employment rate, the industry has paved the way for the government to focus on its people's English proficiency and IT skills. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has been in partnerships with educational institutions to include BPO-related courses in their curricula. On the other hand, The Technical Education Skills and Development Authority (TESDA) has included training for call center agents in its scholarship programs. Right now, it is collaborating with the BPO companies to determine their required agent seats and skills proficiencies.
The BPO industry has induced the growth of other markets as well in the process. There is an immediate need for new properties to house the BPO offices. The expansion of the industry spurred a demand for more computer hardware, adding revenues for the computer sector. The retail industry has taken part in the growth as well with convenience and retail stores emerging next to these BPO centers, catering to employees all day and all night.


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