Friday, February 29, 2008

Disappointing Service: Banco De Oro Electronic Banking: 3rd Party Account Addition

I don't usually complain about establishments but this one deserves important attention. One of my oldest bank account is with the Philippine National Bank. If only they had more branches, I will not likely think of opening an account with another. One service feature that they have is the 3rd party account addition and it is done this way:
  • Logon to your PNB account.
  • Add the 3rd party account information (same bank, different or same branch)
  • Receive notice within 4 to 24 hours via e-mail with a verification code.
  • Logon to your PNB account and type the verification code.
  • Third party account added and can already transfer funds.
When I opened an account with Banco De Oro, I was expecting the 3rd party account addition process to be the same. Unfortunately, it wasn't. This is how they do it instead:
  • Logon to your BDO account
  • Add the 3rd party account information (same bank, different or same branch)
  • Print the confirmation sheet that has the transaction reference number.
  • Sign the confirmation sheet and have it submitted to your home branch
  • Upon receipt of e-banking unit, one needs to wait 5 to 7 working days before the account addition gets done.
Last February 18, I did that exactly and submitted the form to my home branch. As of today, this transaction is still not completed and I've been following up through e-mail or send a message when logged on. Less than half of the messages I sent got an answer and they are all telling me that this transaction is still in process.

As we all know, the owners of Banco De Oro is now on an acquisition spree and aims to become one, if not already, the biggest bank in the country. If this is the quality of service that we are going to get, then the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas really has to impose service standards that banks should follow and consumers be given a well disseminated and transparent means on how they can file a complaint.

This is also the reason why I've expressed great disappointment with Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Circular 542 as there's no clear guidelines at this point as to how consumers can lodge a complaint on poor service by banks, such as those problematic ATM withdrawals (money doesn't come out but your account got deducted), and where minimum turn-around time is not met (I don't think they require a minimum number of days!). The Consumer Help Desk component is still missing. (if there is already, I will gladly post the information here and try the service myself)

E-Commerce in the Philippines will not grow if our banks are too slow to adjust with the times.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Home Sweet Home

Sophia Castillo-Plaza, "Peaches" as friends would call her is one good example of a Filipino who made it to the top of her goal but still have her roots anchored firmly on the ground. In the advent of nurses and doctors flying away for the sake of jobs abroad, Peaches chose to comeback and stay not only for her country but for her family as well.

After staying for about two years in New York and a year in Washington DC for a scholarship program, there is nothing in this world that can stop Peaches from seeing her country again and missing her family so much, that she literally pull every minutes and seconds of time for her to come home.

"I graduated from my masters and had to come home as part of my contract. On a more personal level, after all the learning, I wanted to be useful. I felt that my country needed my skills more than the US did. They had enough brilliant people there. There were more opportunities to make a difference in the Philippines. More challenges to face, more issues you can try to solve."

Her conviction in helping her countrymen by way of service is indeed noble, she endured loneliness and the difficulties in adjusting to a western culture just to finish her education and come home to be her family’s pride. According to her she was so careful not to violate any laws there, as the government has a lot stricter implementation of rules especially to non-citizens.

"I guess I was really scared in breaking rules since they were really more bent on implementing these than here in the Philippines."

The American setting of "openness" brings more solitary feeling to Peaches, she met different people from all walks of life there yet she always feel alive and excited whenever she met a kababayan among the crowd. Philippines is known to be adaptable to western culture and yet she found it more appalling when she was came face to face by the different views of people she came in contact there, a scenario where she found it hard to be more bullish and vocal about her opinion, a contradiction in set up as when she was in the Philippines. “They just speak what’s on their minds and I had to condition myself that it was okay to do that. Here in the Philippines, I had to watch what I say because people were more sensitive.”

Her being opinionated and strong in nature back home was way too timid in the US, a push over and too nice of a gal. That’s one of the reason she misses her home country so much.

"In the US people were more direct to the point and I had to train myself to receive what they say and also to say what I think. I would always be amazed when a stranger approached me to compliment what I’m wearing. I think Filipinos are too shy to do that."

The friendly atmosphere in the Philippines are what is lacking in the US, there aren’t too many people snooping behind your back, which is good and bad at the same time, but you got to miss a lot of friends and family back home as they are always with you every step of your life. Having too much independence in the US gets life too cold. In between studies and mingling to different people there, Peaches missed so much her friends whom she can talked to whenever she needs a listening ear at any given particular moment.

After her years of studies there Peaches finally muster all her strength and reasons to finally came back home, she left behind here in the Philippines her husband whom she was married for about 3 months only when she left for the US, and coming back home was never this sweet.

There was of course some discouragement from the part of her mother, as being a mother she always wants what’s best for her child, her mother told her that life is difficult here in the Philippines, and staying and finding a job in the US would be a good option, but Peaches says otherwise. On her own words:

"I just missed the food. All the fat, grease and salt! Filipino songs – it just has a different effect on me."

With her family in her mind, all the hindrances and struggles in her life abroad were all worth it, sacrifices teaches her lessons in life that cannot be learned in any graduate school in US, or elsewhere in the world. And after a long journey in life, there is nothing compared to home sweet home.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

ICT growth and pains

This article was published in Manila Times last June 19, 2006

Did you know that there are more women using ICT and the Internet than men? However, when it comes to ICT leadership in government, well, that’s a different story. We have but a few women leaders in IT. Nonetheless, I got the chance to exchange messages with three of these women leaders in this sector and talked about how they perceive the local ICT evolving.

Elena Van Tooren, president of the Philippine Computer Society (PCS), sees the ICT sector growing particularly in the ICT services area. “I think our ICT enabled services sector is fulfilling its promise of making a positive impact on our economy, offering employment, and bringing in revenue to the Philippines. All groups supporting this effort should work tightly together so that the end result is faster growth.”

Cecilia Grace Castillo, head of corporate marketing at Innove Communications, agrees as the country is now being seen as one of the best destination for business process outsourcing and back-end processing.

As for Nerissa Ramos, first vice president for corporate business solution, “The BPO and call center sector, both outsourced and competitive, remains to be the most attractive ICT sub-sector for PLDT.” Adding, “Another promising segment is the mobile workforce. We are bullish that this will give us the most growth as broadband wireless coverage becomes more pervasive in the countryside. And we don’t just mean growth in terms of access but even on collateral business applications such as sales force automation, ERPs, work-at-home call-center agent apps, etc.”

But as with growth, there are also pains that must be managed.

Castillo believes that Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) regulation must be clear and remove its ambiguity. “We need end-to-end policies covering all the gray areas. Rules must be set and agreed upon with all the stakeholders.”

For Van Tooren, the PCS’ Committee on Advocacy has been working hard since last year on the amendments to the Automated Election Law. "The current Automated Election Law, R.A. 8436, is very technology specific, limiting us to the use of an OMR type machine, and does not touch on electronic transmission of results. “Dagdag-bawas” happens during the transmission and consolidation of results. The manual system of elections has severe credibility problems. We need to harness appropriate technology to arrive at a true election result, so that our elected leaders can truly say they have the mandate of the people, the basis of a strong government. We need the stability of a true result. We need a technology-neutral law that ensures the Comelec has available support for technology implementation. We need to successfully pilot in 2007 so that we can implement over a wider coverage in 2010, and arrive at true election results, quickly and transparently, for a stronger democracy,” stressed Van Tooren.

With ICT growth pervasive in the country, we will see more and more IT professionals, especially women, playing an important role in its development. Having a serious ICT agenda is a must and all should push for the creation of a revised Government Information Systems Plan where our country can have a clear agenda and program of action in ICT, rather than ad hoc and hype type of projects.