Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - Despite moves by US President Barack Obama and the United States Congress to discourage outsourcing, one of the biggest US banks has decided to locate some of its non-core business support activities in the Philippines.
Wells Fargo & Co., the second largest US bank in deposits, home mortgage servicing and debit cards with $1.3 trillion in assets, is setting up a business support center in Manila as the country's booming business process outsourcing (BPO) industry is projected to produce more than 120,000 new jobs this year.
Company officials did not disclose the value of the investment neither the number of BPO workers the operations would employ.
"We selected the Philippines to be part of Wells Fargo's international footprint based on the country's reputation for strong customer service, a large English-speaking population and a cultural affinity to the United States," said David Caldwell, managing director of Wells
Fargo Philippines Solutions, the local subsidiary of the US banking giant.
The new investment is also good news for property developer Megaworld Corp. on whose McKinley Hill Cyberpark project will rise a new building to serve the outsourcing needs of the US banking giant.
"Our location in McKinley Hill gives us a strong foothold as we are among our peers in the industry," Caldwell said.
Wells Fargo joins other high-profile BPO locators at the 14-hectare McKinley Hill Cyberpark, including Accenture, HP and Thomson Reuters.
Wells Fargo Philippines Solutions already occupies two floors of buildings 8 and 10 Upper McKinley Road, and it will also lease a campus-type building currently being constructed in McKinley Hill Cyberpark.
PH reputation enhanced
The US bank's launch of an in-house business support center here was welcomed by labor leader and former Sen. Ernesto Herrera, saying it has reinforced the Philippines' reputation as "an exceptional global hub for labor-intensive and information technology-enabled outsourcing services."
"We are counting on Wells Fargo's new center to help provide gainful employment to our college-educated, fluent English-speaking professionals, many of whom remain idle," said Herrera.
Variety of functions
He said Wells Fargo's new Philippine center deals with a variety of functions, including customer service and back office support.
Herrera, who is locked in a struggle for leadership of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), said his labor group's new members include VOICE, a labor federation of contact center employees.
According to Herrera, the country's booming BPO industry, which fully employs some 630,000 Filipinos, produced $11 billion in revenues in 2011.
The Business Processing Association of the Philippines sees industry revenues jumping 18 percent to $13 billion this year, he said.
Based on the projected incremental revenues of $2 billion, Herrera said the industry could create around 126,000 new jobs this year.
Worries over US bill
According to Herrera, Wells Fargo's decision to shift more jobs offshore comes amid worries in the Philippines over an anti-outsourcing bill in the US Congress.
Herrera said the proposed US Call Center and Consumer Protection Act, introduced by New York Rep. Tim Bishop, would require the US Department of Labor to track firms that shift contact center jobs overseas. Those firms would be ineligible for any direct or indirect US federal loans or loan guarantees for five years.
Boost for cyberpark
The bill would also require contact center staff to disclose their location to US consumers, who would be given the right to be routed to a US-based call hub upon request, Herrera said.
However, Herrera said he does not expect the US Congress to pass the bill, which he said is being opposed by US corporations that are benefiting from outsourcing.
Megaworld said the entry of Wells Fargo was a big boost to the McKinley Hill Cyberpark, which is on a rapid expansion mode, with the ongoing construction of the four-tower Science Hub beside the Venice Piazza commercial and retail area.
As an IT park accredited by the Philippine Economic Zone Authority, McKinley Hill Cyberpark offers locators income tax holidays and other perks, including the duty-free importation of office equipment.
"We are proud that one of the United States' top four banks, Wells Fargo, has chosen McKinley Hill Cyberpark to set up their new Philippine service center," said Jericho Go, Megaworld's first vice president for business development.
"This move highlights the attractiveness of the Philippines as an investment destination and its human resource capabilities," Go said.
One of US Big 4
Founded in 1929, the San Francisco, California-based Wells Fargo is one of the so-called Big 4 US banks regarded as "too big to fail" at the height of the 2008 global financial crisis. The three others are Bank of America, Citigroup and JP Morgan.
JP Morgan and Citigroup have long existing in-house back offices in Manila through JP Morgan Chase Bank N.A. Philippine Customer Care Center and Citigroup Business Process Solutions Pte. Ltd.
Although Bank of America does not yet have in-house back offices here, Herrera said the Charlotte, North Carolina-based lender is known to have outsourced some of its customer support activities to an independent BPO provider with extensive Philippine operations.
Wells Fargo is emerging from the 2008 financial crisis with a bigger franchise, after it acquired rival banking giant Wachovia Corp., which had been weakened by mounting bad loans, Herrera said.
A highly diversified financial services company with more than 80 different business lines, Wells Fargo has 6,335 branches, 12,094 ATMs, 70 million customers and 264,000 employees, he said.